Sunday, December 09, 2018

"Toontime: The Shoe Drops

credit: Chris Weyant, Boston Globe
Wackydoodle sez: Putin's on his nice list!

Federal prosecutors in New York have finally linked Individual I to federal crimes in court documents filed for lawyer Michael Cohen's sentencing proceedings. The filings affirm Cohen's allegation that he paid off women to keep quite about their sexual encounters with Individual I at the height of his presidential campaign. These payments unambiguously constitute illegal campaign payments in the opinion of prosecutors. Federal law requires that any payments made "for the purposes of influencing" an election must be reported in campaign finance disclosures. These payments are likely to become the target of House Democrats when they take control of the House in January. A Democratic leader said the court filings "outline serious criminal wrongdoing." Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Saturday. "And now you have a third [charge] — that the president was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people.” Nothing like calling the kettle black when it is a dirtball.

In addition to the illegal campaign finance activity, Cohen kept his boss informed of his efforts to speed Kremlin support for a tower development in Moscow well into his bosses' campaign for president. His Russian contact was an assistant to Putin's press secretary. Mueller states that this is important because the efforts to seal a deal, “came at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.” The Special Counsel goes on to emphasize, “The Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government,” One Russian individual who sought to influence the presidential candidate through Cohen was probably Russian Olympic weightlifter, Dmitry Klokov, who offered to provide the Trump campaign with 'political synergy' and 'synergy on a government level'. Despite the mounting circumstantial evidence, Individual I continues to twit weekly, sometimes in CAPITAL LETTERS, that there was "no collusion" between him and Russian government officials.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes including campaign finance violations. Regardless of his subsequent cooperation with federal investigators, the aggressive Southern District of New York prosecutors are recommending to the court that Cohen serve four years in federal prison. Trump continues to deny he had any knowledge of the payments made to Stephanie Clifford, aka porn star Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model. Whether Individual I knew the payments to the women were illegal under federal campaign law is a critical question left unanswered by prosecutors in the documents filed so far. Clearly a connected attorney like Cohen, who had political campaign experience, should have known the payments were illegal, and he had an ethical duty to inform his client of the possibility. Cohen steadfastly maintains the payments were made at the direction of Individual I. If true, that would make the sitting President an accessory to the commission of two federal felonies.

credit: John Darkow, Columbia Missourian
BJ Idowanna sez: Me use smoke signals.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

In Memorium: P-64

US Person posted previously about the LA mountain lions that manage to survive in one of humanity's largest metropolis.  Their lives are immensely difficult due to marginal habitat fragment by rivers of steel and concrete--freeways. {18.09.15} One of these intrepid lions, P-64, became famous for her numerous crossings of Hwy 101 and 114. He successfully crossed them 41 times in the nine months the National Park Service tracked her through a GPS collar. The secret of his successful forays was in the use of a 640 ft long drainage tunnel with no light at the end because of bends in the pipe under 101.  Using this pipe at Liberty Canyon in the Agoura Hills, often filled with water required fortitude, and a strong instinct to occupy his territory. P-64 was photographed using the culvert [below] and became know as "the Culvert cat".

But death by vehicle impact was not P-64's fate. The devastating wildlfires  claimed him; his body was found with burnt paws. Cully was in the Simi Hills when the fire broke out on November 8th and traveled several miles through the fire before stopping in a remote place. Cully had two choices: either enter a populated area full of noisy humans fighting the fires, or enter the burning landscape in hopes of surviving.  He chose the latter, and lost a charmed life that had surpassed so many human imposed challenges before.

The Park Service tracks 13 cougars, eleven of which were near the perimeter of the Simi fire. Nine are moving around and appear to have survived their ordeal. Another young cougar, P-74, appears to have perished in the flames. Cully's death vividly demonstrates the need to give wildlife a chance to survive in a landscape altered almost beyond recognition. A wildlife crossing can be built over the freeway at Liberty Canyon to allow animals to forage and mate successfully--not force them to choose death trapped in a dark, water filled tunnel or death crushed beneath a speeding vehicle.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Creature Feature: Central Park Mandarin

credit: AP

No, not a high Chinese official assigned to the UN, but the little duck attracting big attention in Central Park.  New Yorkers appreciate flair and even a little bling, but this kaleidoscopic duck resembles modern art with his flashy display.  The male Mandarin is most likely an escapee from a private collection; they are native to east Asia.  Photographers and gawkers have been gathering for months for a glimpse of the exotic Aix galericulata.  In terms of crowd, appeal it out performs our own native colorist, the wood duck, to which it is closely related.  An admirer said the mandarin resembled a "living box of crayons", brightening the environs of a predominantly grey cityscape in winter.

This week the duck, who has a streak of showmanship, chose to display in front of the iconic Plaza Hotel where he was sure to attract a big audience.  He wowed them: preening his vibrant sunset array, strutting his assets upon the banks, or gliding regally across his adopted pond.  The Asian duck is not intimidated by the locals either, taking pecks at the other waterfowl as deemed necessary. His carefree attitude has enraptured hardened New Yorkers. In traditional Chinese culture mandarins are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, and are frequently featured in Chinese art. If he rolls the dice right, this little mandarin will live to hybridize with the wood ducks, mallards, northern pintails, and black ducks that also call Gotham's Central Park home.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

COTW: The Relentless Rise of Carbon Emissions

source: EPA
This year has had the greatest increase in carbon emissions in seven years.  Since 1970, CO₂ emissions have increased by about 90% over the amount emitted at the beginning of the previous century.  The world is going backward, not forward, which is to be expected under reactionary politicians in power who refuse to respect good-faith, international efforts to do something about the global warming crisis.  China is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, but it also has the world's largest population.  On a per capita basis, the United States emits the most destructive carbon pollution.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Trump Regime Allows Seismic Blasting

The regime in Washington will allow oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast using a technique known to harm marine wildlife, especially those mammals that use echo location for finding food and navigation.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has granted permits to five companies to use seismic air gun blasts while searching for oil and gas deposits offshore.  The permits allow "incidental" harassment of marine mammals during the survey work.  The federal government itself estimates that airgun blasts could harm thousands of marine mammals including the critically endangered North Atlantic wright whale of which only 440 individuals survive.  The blasts send seismic shock waves through the water that travel 2500 miles.  Blasts of high energy occur every 10-12 seconds for weeks or even months on end.  The sound reaches levels of 260 decibels, equivalent to a grenade blast that would rupture a human eardrum.

Scientists have warned against the extreme disruption caused by seismic surveys using air guns for a wide range of species from whales to zooplankton, the foundation of the ocean food chain.  Under the permit conditions, operators will have to watch for marine life while testing, and shut down operations if sensitive species are observed in the area, but only intentional harm is prohibited, perhaps making a distinction without a practical difference.  Under the previous government, drilling was not allowed within fifty miles of the coast.  That limit has been reduced to three.  Environmental groups vow to fight back against renewed efforts to exploit offshore resources in the Atlantic ocean given support by the current regime in Washington.  The governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia  and New York have opposed offshore oil and gas development backed by popular and business support.