Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anchors Awry

The US Navy was forced to suspend world-wide operations after the USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian tanker off Singapore on Monday. The collision put a ten foot hole in the destroyer below the water line. Ten sailors are missing. [photo] This was the fourth collision of Navy vessels since August 2016:

  • June 17, 2017: Seven sailors were killed when the Fitzgerald, a destroyer, was broadsided by a Philippines-registered cargo ship, about 60 miles off the coast of Japan. The cargo ship breached the destroyer's hull filling a sleeping compartment with seawater.  The ship's captin, his executive officer and a senior NCO were relieved of their duties;
  • May 9, 2017: A 60-70 foot South Korean fishing boat collided with the Lake Champlain, a guided-missile cruiser, on its port side while the cruiser was conducting routine operations in international waters;
  • Aug. 19, 2016: The Louisiana, a nuclear ballistic-missile submarine, and the Eagleview, a Military Sealift Command support vessel, collided while conducting routine operations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the coast of Washington State.  Both ships' hulls were damaged.
Are the collisions a spectacular display of poor seamanship, recklessness or just bad luck? Apologists for the empire are claiming, not the first time of course, that the Navy is stretched too thin in view of its globe-girdling duties.  There are not enough ships or enough men. Incredibly the Navy just launched its most expensive aircraft carrier ever.  It has more carrier task forces than both of its nearest competitors, China and Russia.  The Pentagon, it seems, can never get enough.  Adm. Richardson's investigations will attempt to find out if there is a systemic problem causing the collisions.  Perhaps the design of such apparently fragile warships or the maintenance of global military hegemony are systemic problems?  It's your money.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poland's Primeval Forest to Loose Protection

UK's Guardian newspaper tells us that Poland's conservative government wants the Bialowieza Forest which straddles the border with Belarus to loose its UNESCO World Heritage status since it was granted illegally.  Poland's environment minister has called for the protection to be stripped so logging can continue in the forest.  The forest is one of the last surviving remnants of the primeval forest that covered most of the European continent ten thousand years ago. It is home to many unique life forms including the European bison (Bison bonasus) [photo].   Some of the large oaks (Quercus robur) in the forest are about half a century old.

circa 1955
The forest was protected early in its human history as a private hunting ground for the Polish King.  Sigismund I issued a decree in 1538 imposing the death penalty for poaching a royal bison.  In 1639, all peasants living in the forest were freed from taxes in exchange for their service as royal foresters.  Bialowieza, which takes its name from the central village, remained mostly uninhabited until the late 17th century.  When Russia occupied the area after the Partition of Poland, hunting took place in earnest.  Tsar Alexander II ordered the killing of all forest predators in a misguided effort to protect remaining bison. World wars in Europe also took a heavy toll on the forest. The last bison was shot in 1921.  The core of the forest was declared a national park in 1923 and a small herd of bison, also called wizant, was reintroduced.  They successfully reproduced.  Today, there are about 800 of Europe's biggest land mammal living in Bialowieza.
bison cave art @ Altamira, Spain
Since most of the forest lies outside the boundaries of the national park, logging has continued since the Middle Ages.  Foresters argue that managed logging is necessary to control pests, remove dead wood that poses a fire risk, and allow reestablishment of forest in less time than nature alone would take.  Environmentalists say the ancient forest cannot be managed as a renewable resource if it, and the unique creatures that make it their home are to survive.  Greenpeace activists chained themselves to woodcutting equipment in an attempt to stop logging.  The current Polish minister for the environment wants to triple the amount of logging taking place. (6.6 million ft³).  The increased activity began in May of last year.  He says that the entire forest is not pristine and ancient, but has in fact been replanted by man over the centuries in areas not originally forest.  He wants the designation, which was granted without consultation with local people in 2011, to be changed to allow for mixed use.

The dispute arises before the annual meeting of UNESCO in Krakow.  UNESCO has previously expressed concern over the logging of Bialowieza, and the European Commission said in April it could take legal action to halt the logging.

Friday, August 18, 2017

'Toontime: If It Qacks Like A Duck...

PNG features two cartoons from Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, suggesting that the cur in the White House is a populist like Mr. Schicklgruber's son was a populist.  The firing of his chief nationalist hate monger, Mr. Steve Bannon, does nothing to change the Occupant's own fascist tendencies. (note the acknowledgement of Pulitzer cartoonist Bill Mauldin, creator of GIs Willie and Joe). General Kelly is doing is level best to remove all the incendiaries from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave since his new boss is volatile enough. The second cartoon featured here provides an accurate picture of the reality behind the populist front of President Mc Donald:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The 'Blob' Proved Deadly

US Person posted about "the Blob" in 2015 {15.08.15] . The Blob was a mass of unusually warm water off the northern Pacific coast starting in 2013 that disrupted the usual westerly jet stream pattern and caused unusual weather events in the United States such as ice storms in Texas. More drastically, the Blob interfered with the normal food chain in the ocean. Warm waters are less productive of zooplankton, which thrives in cold water, thus reducing food for fish and other animals farther up the food chain such as marine mammals.  A marine mammal scientist predicted, “I would expect that you’d start to see [lower birth rates] in the next year [2015],”  When food is scarce, “the first thing you do is save yourself,” he says.

Sadly, that prediction proved accurate.  The anchovy fishery collapsed off southern California.  Anchovies are the favorite prey of sea lions.  Sea lions turned to rockfish as a substitute, but it does not have the same nutritional value as oily anchovies.  Consequently nursing sea lion mothers were unable to properly feed their young.  Thousands of sea lion pups died of starvation.  Their emaciated bodies littered the beaches.  The number of strandings exploded in 2015 to 2500, about ten times the usual annual rate.  Fortunately, the California sea lion population is large, about 300,000, so the species can weather the disaster.

Sea lions were not the only species affected by the weird ocean conditions causing a lack of food.  Sea birds living on the Farallons, off San Francisco, did not make an effort to breed.  More whales than usual got ensnared in crabbing equipment in 2016 because they followed the remaining anchovies close to shore.  The Blob phenomenon has passed for now, but scientists say it can happen again with the same disastrous results for marine wildlife  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Hack That Was NOT

The Democrats, the other half of the neo-liberal, authoritarian political establishment that rules the nation has continually blamed the Russians for the Hillary debacle because they hacked the DNC's email server.  President Putin has patiently denied these allegations with such vehemence that US Person has given his denials some credence.  Now comes a story from former intelligence experts and reported in the Nation that claims the DNC hack was an inside job, not the nefarious work of Russian agents, as alleged by an unreliable and ultimately biased mass media and intelligence apparatus that would have us believe our serious national problems are caused by outside, hostile forces and not our own corrupt, decrepit institutions.

Computer forensics provides support for the following woeful conclusions:
  •  the hack of the DNC mail server was accomplished locally using a portable data storage device (USB-2 thumb drive). No hack from Romania could have achieved the transfer speeds over the Internet revealed in the metadata of the download;
  • time stamps indicate the download took place in the EDT time zone;
  • before Guccifer 2.0 took responsibility for the leak of sensitive documents to Wikileaks they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a Russian language template to give the appearance that the hack was related to Russian involvement;
  • no one knows who phished John Podesta's e-mail, or even if it was actually attacked, or conveniently leaked by people with access to the account.
These conclusions were reached through independent investigations by security service professionals who are members of VIPS, which stands for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  They wrote Barrack Obama three days before he left office that the hack was much more likely to be an "inside job" as opposed to meddling of Russian intelligence.  Unfortunately, that was an inconvenient truth. The reality is the Russian hacking narrative is a political construction on the same historic level as the "Spanish blew up the Maine". The VIPS forensic work can be seen at consortiumnews.com.

A national intelligence assessment concluding the Russians were responsible is devoid of evidence that proves Russian agents were involved in a hack of DNC computers, but it is full of such categorical assertions.  One former senior official and member of VIPS called the assessment "a disgrace to the intelligence profession."  It was the work of three "hand-picked" agents from three agencies.  In light of the new forensic evidence, one has to ask: were they hand picked for their political reliability?  The FBI has never examined DNC's computer servers. They relied on information provided by the DNC's IT contractor, Crowd Source, which is co-founded by a notoriously anti-Russian emigre, Dimitri Alperovitch.  Crowd Source says that all malware was removed from DNC computers previous to the official investigation.  A convenient, if not revealing fact.