Trump is not making America great

We are in a trade war.  It raises the price of many items. When prices go up, sales go down,  stores close and people lose jobs.   Both the Chinese and Americans will pay a hefty price.   US farmers are basically on welfare, accepting government handouts   Our relations with many countries, including Canada and Mexico have been severely weakened.  Other countries, not the US, will take the lead in cut carbon emissions and slow the devastating effects of  climate change. We  applaud dictatorships.  We turn our heads as Brazil dismantles the  oversight environmental groups, so President Bolsonaro can step up the destruction of the Amazon rainforest without any internal dissent.   We will soon present to the world a Israel-Palestinian peace plan, which has zero support in Palestine.   It is hope only a political document, aimed at Trump’s re-election.  We have cause serious disruption in the UN negotiations for peace settlement in Libya by siding with General Haftar, (with Egyptian, UAE, Saudi Arabia direct military support and Russia’s support as well).

I correctly predicted this back in August 2015 in my blog:

Ok. I’m in favor of fresh blood, but not that fresh. Donald Trump can sell. He’s been selling his whole life. If you put up a luxury condominium, you have to sell it for top price- and this is what Trump has doing for the last about 30 years. These days, he pushes Trump brand.  All I hear from Trump is marketing. Great marketing and maybe it’s enough for domestic consumption. He isn’t capable of building international cooperative agreements. He’s thinks way too much in terms of power relationships as dividing the world into friends and enemies. This was the great Bush/Cheney failure.

Did I get it right?   Yesterday,  Trump downplayed the missile launches by North Korea as unimportant, while John Bolton, US National Security Adviser stated that they were a direct violation of the UN resolution against North Korea.   In this case Bolton was clearly  right.  Trump leaves Japan with Prime Minister Shinzou Abe not knowing who to believe.

Trump is not the master of negotiations.  It’s all themes.  He is a salesman, and more at home at his rallies.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Mariana denovo! Meu Deus!  In Portuguese, this means “Mariana again, my God.”

This is in reference to the dam that collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil   in November 2015,  killing 19 people, spilling 60 million cubic meters of toxic mud  and completely destroying the town of Bento Rodrigues.     There were warning signs before the collapse.   The company had hired experts, who identified problems with the dam.  But the operation company Samarco, a consortium between Vale and BHP,  did too little, too late.   The investigation of the Mariana dam collapse lead to criminal charges, fines and lawsuits.   The environmental damage stretch all the way to the mouth of the Rio Doce river, to the Atlantic Ocean.  Toxic elements found in the tailings include mercury, arsenic and lead.  See link below.

The criminal charges and lawsuits provided Value strong motivation to insure their dams were safe.   But there’s an lot about Vales’s  Brumadinho dam collapse that seems similar to Mariana.  On January 25, 2019 an earthen dam,holding back 11.7 million cubic feet of tailings  from an iron ore mine  broke and  immediately created a huge mud flow for two miles.  From video shot at the time, it was a catastrophic failure with a breach in the lower sections of the dam, leading to a total caving in of the upper sections of the dam.  Heavy rainfall is likely a contributing factor.

As of Feb 23, 177 people are confirmed dead and 133 people are considered missing.  (see Wikipedia link) Many of the victims were Vale’s employees.  The force of the flood was tremendous, overturning buses, destroying homes and hotels, and drowning their occupants.  A section of a bridge collapsed.  The mud swept over approximately a square mile of land.  It definitely could have been worse.   The mud flow veered east of the village of Vale de Cachoreira (valley of the water fall),  taking some lives but sparing others.   An alarm system failed to go off.  Vale stated this failure was unimportant, as most of the destruction occurred in a matter of seconds.

As with the Mariana disaster,  there were warning signs.   Right now, all eyes are focused on a German firm TUV SUD who performed the last safety inspection in September 2018.   There is evidence that they were reluctant to sign off on the certificate of safety,  but management in Vale pressured them.    There is a serious conflict of interest in these inspections, as Vale hires the outside firm, and pays them for the inspection.   Obviously, more direct involvement is needed from the government.   The shut down of a tailing pit, I would think, could shut down operations at a mine, so there will always be some resistance.  But two accidents of this magnitude ought to be sufficient incentives for change.

The environmental impact is still being assessed.   High mercury concentrations were found in the river below the spill after the collapse.   Metal contaminants do not decompose with time.   The will become more dilute as they flow downstream.  Unfortunately toxic elements can be concentrated in fish and other animals,  leading to real health risks.

Earth dam collapses due to mining operations have occurred in many countries, including the US, India, Italy and Japan.   The precipitating event is often heavy rainfall, but preceding this, are typically structural defects.   In the case of Brumadinho, the rain lead to a process called “liquidification” where solids in the tailings became mobile.   Clogged dam outlets may have contributed to the Brumadinho disasterer. With sifting weather patterns due to global warming,  the historical rainfall patterns may become less predictable, requiring extra measures to insure safety in all tailings pits.   Brazil has many tailing pits in worse condition than Brumadinho.   This latest disaster should be considered a wake up call to Brazil (as if Mariana wasn’t enough!).

The US has its own share of disasters.  In year 2000,  in Marin County, Kentucky,  a coal mining tailing pit failed. According to Wikipedia,  “The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated. The spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill and one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States.”     Beyond permitting requirements, a vigilant monitoring and safety inspections, free of conflict of interest with mining operators seem essential.   Remember the saying, “What comes around, goes around.”   The next Mariana, or Brumadinho type disaster  might be in West Virginia, Michigan or Kentucky.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Mariana Dam Collapse

Wikipedia,  Brumadinho Dam Collapse

Wikipedia:  Dam failures 

Other similar dam disasters:

Bolsonaro: Acordos cooperativos internacionais (Parte 1)

This is a translated version of Bolsonaro: International cooperative agreements into Portuguese.  It concerns the upcoming Brazilian elections. It is provided by Google and likely contains errors.

A tradução foi fornecida pelo Google e provavelmente contém erros.

Em cerca de 10 dias, os brasileiros irão à votação e elegerão Jair Bolsonaro ou Fernando Haddad. Temo que Bolsonaro siga o mesmo caminho de Donald Trump, como um destruidor de acordos cooperativos internacionais. Eu temo que os brasileiros não entendam completamente o papel vital que seu país desempenha no aquecimento global e a absoluta necessidade de políticas governamentais agressivas para proteger a Amazônia.

Por causa do terrível histórico de Donald Trump sobre proteção ambiental, espero que meu país possa encontrar um novo líder no ano 2020. Donald Trump nunca pede desculpas por suas políticas equivocadas. Ele mente constantemente e exagera seu sucesso.

Os EUA no século passado sofreram fome na década de 1930 durante uma depressão econômica e depois uma terrível guerra mundial, onde 60 milhões de pessoas morreram no mundo. Este era o mundo dos meus pais. Das cinzas da guerra, surgiu um novo espírito internacional cooperativo, que é melhor exemplificado pela criação das Nações Unidas. Trump enfraqueceu a ONU. Bolsonaro seguirá Trump.

A ONU foi projetada para resolver disputas entre as nações. Uma das maiores conquistas da ONU foi a ratificação do Pacto Nuclear do Irã, que sujeitou o país do Irã a inspeções completas de suas instalações em troca do levantamento das sanções. Os EUA em breve estarão em violação direta deste acordo.

O Acordo do Clima de Paris da ONU foi um grande avanço no reconhecimento internacional sobre o aquecimento global como uma ameaça ao nosso planeta. O Brasil é um parceiro vital para deter o desmatamento da Amazônia. Compartilha essa responsabilidade com o Peru, Colômbia, Venezuela e Equador.

Jair Bolsonaro tem pouco interesse em construir os laços de cooperação e trabalhar com a ONU nesse esforço. De acordo com o Guardian:

Na Amazônia, madeireiros ilegais, mineradores, grileiros e grandes proprietários de terras se uniram à sua bandeira. Aqui, eles não esperam que Bolsonaro cumpra a lei. Pelo contrário, a esperança é que ele cumpra sua promessa de obliterar quase toda a legislação ambiental e pró-indígena. Ele ganhou apoio maciço em estados rurais do centro-oeste e todos menos um estado da Amazônia.

Em agosto, Bolsonaro levantou preocupações internacionalmente quando prometeu ingressar nos Estados Unidos de Trump e retirar o Brasil do acordo de Paris. Isso significa que o país não estaria mais comprometido em conter suas emissões do desmatamento da Amazônia, que é aqui uma fonte maior de gás de efeito estufa do que a queima de combustíveis fósseis.

O Brasil pode, claro, ainda insistir que as emissões de automóveis dos EUA são as culpadas, ou a queima de carvão da Índia. No final, o aquecimento global é desastroso para todo o planeta, assim como a 2ª Guerra Mundial. Nós somos um planeta.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/09/brazils-bolsonaro-would-unleash-a-war-on-the-environment

https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro

 

Fora Temer

If you are not Brazilian, the title of this blog likely means nothing. It literally means “Oust Temer.”  Brazilians hope that  their president will either be impeached or resign.  Currently, resignation does not appear to be likely.

My latest information is that in about six months time, Temer will be impeached on the grounds of corruption.  He never was elected, but took over after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached.

Dilma was sent packing in August 2016.   She became very unpopular in 2015 after Brazil’s economy went into recession due to falling commodity prices, most importantly oil and iron.  It was suspected that she had some involvement in the Car Wash (Lavo Jato) scandal, which involved kickbacks on contracts from Petrobras, but there was never any proof of this.  She was impeached due to “creative accounting” as follows:

Brazilian governments are required to meet budget surplus targets set in Congress. Ms Rousseff is accused of allowing creative accounting techniques involving loans from public banks to the treasury that artificially enhanced the budget surplus.

This gave the appearance that government accounts were in better shape than they actually were. The surplus is one of the measures taken into account by investors of how sound an economy is.

Ms Rousseff has always maintained she did not act criminally in budgetary affairs.
She says many other presidents, mayors and state governors always used the same creative accounting techniques and were never punished for them.

The president says this is merely being used as a legal excuse – that her impeachment is nothing but an attempted coup by the opposition.

The Lavo Jato scandal was enormous with investigations of 232 persons, including former Brazilian  President Lula.

Rousseff has claimed that her Vice President Temer at the time, was disloyal, and plotted with the opposition party to get rid of her.

President Temer is not being impeached for the Car Wash scandal, although many believe he had some involvement.   He is being impeached  for a meat inspection bribery scandal, called the “JBS meat scandal.” See link to the New York Times:

New York Times: JBS Meat Scandal

JBS is described as a global meat packing empire, and its CEO, Joesley Batista, has a tape recording between Temer and himself, implicating Temer in bribery corruption scandal. Temer claims the tape has been doctored, so technical experts will be need to authenticate the recording.

Impeachment proceedings may take at least  six months, so the legislature could send Temer packing before Christmas.  The next President would be a stand in, as elections will be held in 2018.

The economy of Brazil is likely not change much, with an enormous differences between the very wealthy upper class, and the large, poorly educated lower class.  Unemployment is likely to be above 10% but this  does not tell the full story, with high unemployment in the lower paying jobs.

Perhaps, what is missed is that through these impeachments, the concept of three branches of government, is working as it is designed. Companies can’t just slip bribes to legislators or the executive branch for favors.  At least sometimes they get caught by the courts and the penalties can be severe.

Democracies collapse as in Venezuela, when the executive branch colludes with the legislature to limit the power of the courts.  Or the president simply ignores the power of the courts.  What should emerge finally from Brazil, is the three branches of government are still sufficiently independent to keep the democratic process working.   A corrupt free Brazil is not around the corner, but neither is the situation in Venezuela or a number of African counties (Burundi and Zimbabwe come to mind) where democracy has vanished.

And it is further hoped that more  honest Brazilians will enter politics, in an effort to improve the government ruled by the people of Brazil.

Stay tuned,

Dave