Thursday, October 19, 2017

NW Natives' Right to Fish in Supreme Court

Sport fishermen in the northwest constantly lament the decline in salmon population and often point to competition from other predators like California sea lions and Native American fishers as part of the problem.  These jejune opinions are typical of the reactionary thinking in vogue.  The fact is northwest Indian tribes have treaty rights to fish in waterways with fish to catch.  As supreme law of the land, their treaty rights were upheld in a landmark 1974 decision by a Ninth Circuit federal judge in the Boldt decision (U.S. v. Washington) which gave Natives the right to harvest half the salmon in Washington state waterways.  The decision recognized the tribes' sovereignty when it came to managing their treaty rights to fish.

The real reason for salmon depopulation is relatively straightforward for unbiased thinkers.  It is habitat degradation in all of its various forms: from dam building, water pollution, to road culverts [photo].  Culverts are a pervasive problem that is often overlooked when discussing salmon conservation.  In the state of Washington alone, almost two thousand fish-blocking culverts have been identified.  By creating barriers too steep, or too angular, adult salmon are prevented from spawning upstream and juvenile salmon prevented from returning to the sea.  Culverts were identified in a 1997 report to the Washington legislature as one of the most "recurrent and correctable" obstacles to healthy salmon stocks.  In 2013 the state Department of Transportation was ordered to prioritize their replacement with fish-friendly crossings.  So far in twenty-five years, the state has replaced 319 with fish passages.

If the native peoples win their lawsuit in the US Supreme Court and lower court decisions recognizing their sovereignty are upheld, the state will be faced with a potential bill of $2.4 billion to replace 900 culverts with high priority by 2030.  Understandably the state's attorneys have adopted an extreme interpretation of Indian fishing rights in their court arguments.  One knowledgeable observer called the arguments a, "Wild West attitude" that was previously rejected by the courts. One Indian leader stated that the right to harvest salmon was one of the few things Indians retained in return for all the land they gave up in western Washington.  But the Boldt decision did not expressly decide how far a state must go to protect habitat to insure healthy salmon stocks for Indians to fish.  Montana and Idaho have sided with Washington in the case. Other states in the northwest with stream culverts are watching the litigation closely.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

COTW: Pass the Cool-Aide

Der Leader is adhering to his plutocratic roots with the introduction of tax 'reform' that favors the rich over the working classes.  Under the proposed plan the billionaire could get a $23 million tax cut according to a study released by Senate Democrats.  The fact is real wages, that is adjusted for inflation, have been falling since the late sixties. This chart only shows the change since 2007:

All percentiles except the top 5% have experienced declining real wages.  Yet the tax burden has fallen more on peoples' payroll income as this chart shows:

Corporate taxes and individual income taxes which Trump proposes to reduce further would have to be made up with more revenue from payrolls.  Average tax rates for high-income individuals whose individual income is mostly from investments and corporate earnings have  substantially dropped.  Average tax rates for the middle 20% has remained relatively flat.

In short, the very rich like Trump are already getting a significant tax break in historical terms, with the middle and working classes taking up the short fall in revenue.  Are 'Mericans once again going to drink the cool-aide of 'less tax means more jobs' as the plutocracy attempts again to satisfy its never ending greed for more?  Stay tuned--if you can get past the tawdry tit for tat that dominates the mass news cycle.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Global Cat Day

US Person wishes to share with all of you cat admirers a picture of his beloved LuuMao who passed last summer.  The joy of a loving cat companion is sometimes beyond words, so only a picture can suffice.  Tell your cats how much you love them on this Global Cat Day.

Navy Dolphins Help Track Vaquitas

US Navy dolphins are on a unique mission in the Gulf of California.  The trained marine mammals are tracking vaquitas, Phocoena sinus, the critically endangered small porpoise endemic to the norther Gulf of California, so they can be captured and taken to sanctuary until their natural habitat is made safe for them to return. [photo courtesy NOAA] The Mexican government is undertaking the task on the advice of experts who believe the vaquita, whose population has been reduced 90%, is on the edge of extinction in the wild.

A Center for Biological Diversity spokesman said the vaquita's home will not be safe until the government eliminates gill netting in the northern Gulf.  A permanent ban was instituted two years ago, but illegal netting for the totoaba continues. {28.03.26} Vaquitas are also ensnared in the nets and drown. The Mexcian government has committed $100 million to the effort to save the vaquita and compensate fishermen for lost income. Captured vaquita will be confined in pens in the Gulf until they can be released to the wild again.  The last resort operation is risky since no vaquita has been captured alive to date, and it is uncertain whether they can survive and reproduce while confined.  Experts think the risks are worth taking since the vaquita has no known extant relatives and therefore represents proportionately more of the tree of life than other marine mammals. (an EDGE specie)    If it the capture project works it may be a model for rescuing other critically endangered species.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Toontime: Stuck With Moron

credit: M. Streeter, Savanah Morning News
BC Idonwanna sez: Talk to Chief Little Finger waste of time!
Der Leader is apparently motivated solely by overturning his predecessors notable achievements in office.  His high-school bully behavior is not only alienating the public [chart below], but alarming members of the political elite.  He turns from threatening North Korea with nuclear annihilation to de-certifying Iran's compliance with an international nuclear arms agreement that took seven nations twelve years to negotiate.  His de-certification 'trumps' eight years of IAEA inspections that have found Iran compliant with the treaty's terms.

Typical of the boy president's overblown rhetoric, he called the Obama-era agreement the worse deal America has ever made.  Any deal that adverts nuclear war is a good deal in US Person's opinion. Incidentally, he is reliably informed that Donald's much parodied hair style is due to a hair weave intended to make him appear to have more hair than he has. Can 'Merica afford four more years of this loose cannon in the White House?  It is up to Congress to control his destabilizing foreign policy actions before the button is pushed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

COTW: The High that Kills

The public health crisis embodied in the increasing abuse of opioids has reached a new lethality.  Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid more powerful than heroin, but only 2 grams can be fatal.  The drug is finding its way into the US heroin and cocaine supply where unsuspecting addicts die from their drug of choice laced with "Apache" or "China White", as it is known on the street.  Most of it comes from China through the mail, and it is available on-line.  The death rate from synthetic opioids has increased by 72% from 2014 to 2015 according to data from the Center for Disease Control.  An idea of how powerful the drug is can be gauged from the fact that a fentanyl derivative is used to tranquilize elephants and rhinos. Interestingly, Russia's spetnaze forces used a fentanyl-based gas to subdue Chechen terrorists who held an entire theater filled with people hostage in 2002.  130 of the 850 hostages died from their exposure to the gas.  It's legitimate use is for relief of extreme pain associated with advanced cancer.  The regions showing are the most increase in overdose deaths are in the Northeast and the Midwest [chart above].   Abuse of the drug first appeared in the 1970's among the medical community, but has spread rapidly since then.  It was developed in the 1960's under the trade name of Sublimaze.