Saturday, May 31, 2008

'Toontime Extra: The Real McClintons

[credit: Pat Oliphant]

Friday, May 30, 2008

Le Shorter: The Magic Number

Nota Bene: Even if Hill&Bill is awarded her proportion of the Florida delegation of 211 which calculates to 105 based on her 50% to 33% victory in that primary, it's not enough to overcome Obamanation. Based on this arithmetic, Obama would be awarded 67 delegates, plus the 13 pledged to Edwards and 5 Florida automatic delegates for a total of 85 resulting in a net +28 for her (Hill&Bill has 8 Florida supers). Dividing Michigan's delegation of 156 is even more problematical for Hill&Bill because their opponent was not even on the ballot. Only a 50/50 split would be fair to all candidates. Currently Obama's margin is +200 in contested delegates. Slice it or dice it--he wins.

'Toontime: ObamaLatte

[credit: Joel Prett, Lexington Herald-Leader]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Housing Meltdown

Warren Buffet's real estate CEO sees the US real estate market bottoming. But here at Persona Non Grata we consider that statement sales talk. Some sobering numbers are submitted for your consideration. Standard & Poor said its national home price index fell 14.1% in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, the lowest since its inception in 1988. Last week, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said home prices fell 3.1 percent in the first quarter, the largest drop in its 17-year history and only the second quarter of price declines recorded. The National Association of Realtors said its pending sales index set a fresh record low, down about 20% from a year ago and 35% from its peak in April 2005. The current Case-Schiller Index shows home prices declining at a 32% annual rate. At risk is a huge 4.6 million home inventory or nearly double the 2.6 million average inventory for the past 20 years. Even more worrisome is that 2.27 million homes sit empty, and that is besides all the other homes banks own from foreclosures, projected to be 1 in 8 US homes by 2012. 62.3% of lenders of prime mortgages are tightening their credit standards--making it harder to get a new loan or refinance. In the eighteen years the Fed has been tracking home mortgage standards, there was never a reading above 32.7% Similar credit tightening is going on in the commercial real estate arena (78.6% are tightening standards).

If homes keep deflating and hit the dangerous 20% level experts mention, millions will lose their equity. Consumption and credit will be hit, and banks will keep writing-off greater amounts, a development no one wants to contemplate. Robert Shiller believes home prices may equal or exceed the 30% drop of the 1930s. That's $6 trillion in today's dollars, or $80,000 for every US homeowner. The Fed can keep injecting liquidity but only for so long, and it may not work. If bank losses are great enough, their liquidity demands will overwhelm the central bank and for some it will be a matter of too little, too late. Not a pretty picture, and no way to know how bad things may get. But just so you don't get too gloomy and accuse me of being unpatriotic, here is a pretty picture of a soft landing that actually worked. Way to go, JPL!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Le Shorter: Massive Turnout in Oregon

According to Phil Keisling, a former Oregon Secretary of State, the turnout in Oregon's Democratic primary was massive: a whopping 72.88% so far. The count will not be final until June 9th. The Oregon figure eclipses Pennsylvania's 54% and Kentucky's 43%. Kentucky's modest Democratic voter turnout was a record. If historical trends hold, Oregon is on track to exceed the previous state record of 73% set in the 1968 primary contest between Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dialogue with Hillary: MmmmphUgh!

What's that Hill? I can't hear understand what you are saying. Maybe if you took your foot out of your mouth, that would help. Seriously, Senator, its time to end further embarrassment-- no matter how the sisters feel. Hey, if you don't take it from me here is what Ann Davidow says in her blog: "And it isn’t really that anyone believes Hillary wishes Kennedy’s fate to be visited upon Obama but rather that her musings are an indication of her egocentric approach to the world. Self-involved and driven by ambition her sense of entitlement led her to verbalize that inner sense of self importance. And in the uproar that followed she issued one of those non-apology apologies about not meaning to “offend”, so typical of politicians who just can’t bring themselves to admit they said something totally inappropriate, insulting, insensitive and mean-spirited." Ditto. The magic number is 59.

Update: In pushback mode Hillary Clinton is defending her remarks saying they were "taken out of context". Well, Senator, the context of your remarks was inapposite and therefore given the sensitivity of your reference, mean. The historic context of RFK's campaign is entirely different than that which exists today. Relative unknown Eugene McCarthy was widely viewed by party elders as not having a chance against the 'new' Nixon, and Kennedy entered the race late. Certainly not the case with Obama versus McCain. Obama leads McCain in a national poll by 8%. The California primary, representing a large block of delegates, was held months ago held in case you can't remember winning it midst the campaign haze. My understanding is that "Super Tuesday" was intended to identify a viable candidate early so more resources could be diverted to winning the general election. The point is not that you be given the same freedom to press your candidacy for as long as male candidates did without criticism, but that you have no realistic chance of winning and therefore continuing your campaign is counterproductive to the Democratic Party's cause in November. The race is close and the criticism chauvinist only in your mind, Senator. By every metric you care to fairly use, Obama wins. Only if you try to rely on primaries in which the leading opponent did not participate, as previously agreed, can you twist the facts to suit your case. And your statement that you are "committed to uniting the party" is totally disingenuous. Everybody knows you are only interested in doing whatever it takes to win, party be damned.
Editorial Note: Thanks to the many readers of Persona Non Grata for pointing out spelling gaffes overlooked. Enjoy our updated profile image above.

Friday, May 23, 2008

'Toontime: Knee Walking

[credit: Pat Oliphant]

Europe Sets a Good Example

The Iron Curtain was the somber reality of a world polarized to the point of mutual destruction. But nature, it its infinite ability to adapt, took over the empty spaces drawn by political adversaries on maps. Squeezed out of their homes by development, the no-man's land became a haven for wildlife. Flowers, birds, insects and mammals now thrive in a network of parks, reserves and organic farms. It is entirely fitting after the end of the Cold War that the European Union plans to turn the 4200 mile former international barrier into the world's largest greenbelt stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. A symbol of death becomes a symbol of life triumphant. Not all of the zone is wilderness and only one third of it is designated as nature conservation areas. But European environmental organizations such as Germany's Bund are fighting encroaching development wherever it can. Legal protections must be given to the zone if the new reality of man's harmony with nature is to be realized.
[graphic source: The Independent]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Polar Bears Win Protection

More: NRDC and other environmental groups have sued the federal government to insure that green house gas pollution is regulated to protect the polar bear in its arctic home. The legal action comes after statements made by Secretary Kempthorne indicated the government would not stop drilling for oil in the bears' habitat or regulate greenhouse gases to protect it from harm. Kempthorne said he would not allow the Endangered Species Act to be "misued" in an attempt to alter policy concerning global climate change. He has proposed administrative alterations to the Act so that carbon emissions cannot be considered "a taking of an endangered species" which courts have consistently considered to be any significant habitat degradation attributable to human activity. The groups are challenging Kempthorne's efforts to curtail the legal implications of listing ursus maritimus as "threatened" under the Act.

[5/14/08] Ah, there is good news tonight, Francis! The anti-environmental Bush Regime surprised many activists and agreed to put polar bears (ursus maritimus) on the "threatened" list of the Endangered Species Act which means the government must come up with a plan for their protection and habitat preservation. The decision is precedent setting because it is the first time the federal government has acted to protect a species whose survival is threatened by global warming. After a three year legal battle, the Regime finally had to acknowledge that the bear's sea ice habitat is disappearing faster than the most dire predictions. The preservation plan for polar bears is full of industry friendly loopholes, but nevertheless the decision is an important first step. The campaign to save the the great white bears will go on to insure they have a fighting chance to survive the calamity man has wrought on planet Earth.

Le Shorter: Oregon Whites Vote Obama

As expected Senator Obama won the Oregon primary, a predominately white state but with a more educated and affluent population than Kentucky. His delegate total is now only 64 (AP) short of the total needed to win the nomination (2026). Eighty seven delegates remain to be contested in three primaries.

Paying at the Pump

Crude oil has hit an all time high of $129 a barrel, up 165% in three years. The effect on the economy of high oil prices is both deflationary and inflationary. High oil prices acts as a confiscatory tax on consumers who must spend more of their finite dollars on energy. Petroleum products are a component of a myriad of products including food, and the increased cost of production and transport is passed down the distribution system in higher prices. Demand, especially from emerging markets such a India and China, continues to grow by more than 1% per year while the rate of increase in supply is slowing. Ageing fields where extraction is cheap are already observing output reductions. Its significant that the Charlatan's request for more production from his Saudi friends resulted in a mere 300,000 barrels a day more. The market considered that increase insignificant. Some analysts say peak world production has already been reached while others think production may plateau for some time while more costly fields like the discovery in the deep southern Atlantic off Brazil are brought online. Another factor in the high price of oil is the weak dollar which has devalued 40% in the past year. This condition has led commodity speculators to rush toward oil as a good hedge. $200 a barrel oil is on the horizon. Got a bike?

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Great Dying

As governments meet in Bonn, Germany at the Convention on Biological Diversity to discuss ways of reducing the catastrophic loss of species, the goal of significantly reducing such losses is already unattainable. A report produced by the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network says that land species have already declined by 25%, marine life by 28% and freshwater species by 29%. The study tracked nearly 4,000 species between 1970 and 2005 and found that without doubt humans are responsible for the destruction. Five main reasons were given for species decline: climate change, pollution, destruction of habitat, spread of invasive species and human over exploitation. Talk about slowing down extinctions is getting the world nowhere because action does not follow words. A prime example is the recent resignation of Brazil's environment minister. Disgusted with the increasing destruction of Amazon rain forest and her government's unwillingness to call a halt to its exploitation, the minister threw in the towel. Her resignation may only be a temporary embarrassment. The editor of the report, Jonathan Loh, said that the extinction rate is unprecedented in natural history since the dinosaurs suffered a mass extinction 65 million years ago. The loss of species has direct impacts on man's quality of life: fewer and more vulnerable food sources, fewer medicines, more toxicity, pests and diseases. It is a grave error to think technology has liberated mankind completely from the forces of nature.
[graphic: The Independent]

So Much for Compassion

More: An article in Harper's Magazine by Christopher Ketcham vividly describes the buffalo roundup in and around Yellowstone and the appalling history of our treatment of the buffalo. (June 2008). Nearby ranchers are quick to point out the threat of brucellosis spreading from bison in which it circulates harmlessly to cattle where it causes miscarriages. Of course they sometimes forget to mention that their cattle graze on public lands at artificially low cost. Some of the public range should be used to allow that last genetically pure Bison bison to survive in the wild. The Yellowstone herd is among the last 15,000 or so truly wild buffalo in America. The 300,000 domesticated bison, raised for their hides and meat, are all hybrids to some extent.
[5/13/08]The Regime brutally slaughtered 1600 hundred of the last free buffalo in the Yellowstone this winter. The hard winter killed 700 more. In the space of six months America has lost half of its last free roaming herd, the largest death toll since the 1800's when the noble beasts were exterminated to the point of near extinction. The senseless slaughter has brought a public outcry. NRDC has helped generate 120,000 protests from concerned Americans. The National Park Service is paying attention. And the State of Montana, acutely aware that Americans are outraged, has just called a halt to this season's slaughter. But more is needed, especially more habitat outside the national park boundaries, if these symbols of our freedom are to remain free. Join me and help NRDC fight to help our buffalo by campaigning for long term protections. If we value bison enough to put their image on our $50 gold coins, they are worth preserving in the wild.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Johnny's Friends

Update: John Loeffler, John 'Maverick' McBush's campaign co-chair and chief strategist resigned today over his lobby activities as head of Loeffler Group. One of his clients was the parent company of aeronautical manufacturer Airbus, European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS). Northrop and EADS won a controversial and lucrative contract to replace aging air refueling tankers for the Air Force. McBush helped kill a similar contract in 2004 that would have been awarded to Seattle's Boeing Co. Loeffler's firm also represented Saudi Arabia in return for a $15 million fee. So far five former lobbyists on McCain's staff have resigned amid controversy. Charlie Black remains as a McBush political stategist. Charlie Black's firm, Black Manafort, Stone & Kelly represented Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos for a reported $900,000. Marcos ruled for twenty years and is accused being responsible for the deaths of thousands of opposition activists. His firm also represented the government of Zaire for $1 million. The dictator of that country, Mobuto Sese Seko, plundered its wealth and executed political opponents. To represent the Angolan rebel group UNITA and its ruthless leader Jonas Savimbi the firm charged $600,000 to achieve what was quickly dubbed in cynical Washington as 'Savimbi chic'.
[5/13/08]Two aides of Republican presidential candidate, John W. McBush, were forced to quit the campaign because of their connections to the Burmese military junta first disclosed by Harper's Magazine. Douglas Goodyear was tasked with running the Republican convention in Minneapolis. His lobbying firm DCI Group was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent the isolated military dictatorship. Doug Davenport, another member of the firm also resigned. Recent uproar over the junta's delay in allowing foreign aid workers into the country to assist disaster relief has caused renewed concern about McCain's ties to lobbyists representing dubious clients. Three other lobbyists, Charlie Black, Tom Loeffler, and Peter Madigan, and their firms’ clients, have generated at least $3.5 million in campaign donations to Sen. McCain over his career, according to Campaign Money Watch analysis of campaign finance data. Black resigned from the campaign earlier. McCain attempts to portray himself to the electorate as a "straight talker" with the help of CMM enamored of his war record and purported maverick status within the Republican Party. But McBush is hardly free from the pernicious influence of "beltway bandits" as these latest resignations demonstrate.

Le Shorter: US Complicit in Mass Executions

AP reports that the South Korean goverment was responsible for the mass murder of leftists and peasant sympathizers at the outset of the Korean War. US military advisors were sometimes present during the purges. An investigating South Korean commission estimates that in the summer of 1950 as many as 100,000 Koreans were executed.

Senator Ted Recovering

Persona Non Grata wishes to extend to Senator Ted Kennedy and his family our best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery from the seizure he suffered yesterday.

Friday, May 16, 2008

'Toontime: Short Odds

[credit: Peter Dunlap-Shohl, Anchorage Daily News]

'Maverick' McBush's Plan is Not Enough

I wrote previously [3/27/08] there is a consensus among climate scientists that reductions in CO2 emissions must reach 80% of current levels by 2050 for the Earth to have an even chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. McBush announced his carbon reduction program this week in Stump Town at a venue that was unintentionally ironic. He spoke at Vesta, a Danish wind turbine factory. The public relations gaffe aside, the substance of McBush's plan can be summed up in one word: inadequate. His program is generally consistent with the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act which calls for reductions in carbon emissions of only 60%. And he would give away rather than auction initial pollution permits. Auction proceeds could be utilized for research and development of low carbon technologies and transportation infrastructure. Predictably the CMM hailed McBush's weak proposals as "courageous" and a "sharp break" from the Regime's case of chronic denial. But Sierra Club spokesman Carl Pope said McBush's proposals were "dramatically worse than the average Republican governor."
The United States created the wind power industry when Jimmy Carter began a program of subsidies for alternative energy development after the first oil crisis in the '70s. But for the past 26 years McBush and other conservatives in Congress have blocked efforts to extend the wind power tax credit. As a result of this concerted opposition, the US is a small player in a $36 billion global market (see chart). Instead, McBush has called for massive new loan guarantees for the nuclear power industry, and opposed removal of oil industry subsidies. Except for voting against opening ANWR to exploitation, his environmental record is almost as dismal (LCV lifetime score: 24%) as the Charlatan's.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Obama's Path to Victory II

Senator Obama has picked up 26 automatic delegates in the last week, eclipsing Senator Clinton's long held lead in that category (281-271.5). Obama now has 1871.5 (AP) delegates pledged to support him at the convention including automatic delegates. Ignoring the out of bounds delegations from Michigan and Florida for the moment (the delegates will be seated, but the exact allocation remains to be determined by the rules and bylaws committee) the magic number is 2025. Assuming Obama wins half of the remaining 217 contested delegates, he will be only 45 short of the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 3rd without anymore automatic delegates pledging support. But with about two hundred super delegates still uncommitted, the large probability is Obama will have enough to win the nomination before the convention begins in August.
[first post 5/7/08]
Previously I did the math on the remaining delegates to be allocated in the Democratic Primary race. With Hillary's narrow win in Indiana (+4) and a pounding in North Carolina by Obama (+8 so far, 59 remain to be allocated), Hillary's big money contributors will drift away as well as her "super" delegate support. Hillary loaned herself another cool $6.4 million in the aftermath of the Obama victory, perhaps from her husband's $24 million she did not disclose. Nevertheless the transplanted Arkansan will continue her campaign right up to the convention, ignoring calls from party leaders to end the contest so resources can be devoted to defeating John W. McBush in November.

Another look at the contested delegate count shows 217 remain to be allocated. Obama will add to his lead of about 150 contested delegates after Tuesday's results are final. Hillary looks forward to Kentucky(51) and W. Virginia( 28). While Obama will probably win Oregon(52), Montana(16) and South Dakota(15). Puerto Rico(55) will go for Hillary, but that contest is not really significant since the territory does not have a vote in the Electoral College. Even if every single delegate from the contests she is expected to win are allocated to her column (Obama would have to quit for that to happen), she does not have enough delegates to overcome Obama's current lead of 149-156(NYT-AP) contested delegates.

Automatic delegates are expected to confirm the results of America's participation in the primaries. A nonconforming result at Hillary's stubborn insistence would cause chaos at the convention, and the party still vividly remembers Chicago, 1968. Undoubtedly Michigan and Florida delegations will be seated on a 50/50 basis since that is the only fair way to recognize their "out of bounds" credentials. 254-256 automatic delegates have committed so far to Obama. He is about 200 delegates short of the nomination (2025) at this point. If he wins only half of the remaining contested delegates, and is assigned half of the delegates from populous Florida and Michigan, he has enough to win the nomination without buying a single automatic delegate. So the fat lady is hitting all the high notes.

Monday, May 12, 2008

CO2 at Record Levels

The trend line is black. Actual readings at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii in red. CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years. Scientists say that Earth could be loosing it's natural ability to absorb more CO2.

Le Shorter: It's Still a Long Way Down

Credit Suisse projects that by 2012, 12.7% of houses in the United States -- roughly 6.5 million homes or ONE IN EIGHT -- will have been foreclosed. Post-bubble real estate deflation has a long way to go.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Political Myth Exploded

From the urban legend department: Obama cannot win white working class voters. Submitted for your consideration are the final results in Indiana and Ohio, two states smack dab in the middle of the blue collar purgatory known as the rust belt. Clinton won Indiana by only 11,152 votes which is less than 1% of the total. And now that Ohio is finally finished counting votes including provisional ballots, it appears Clinton won Ohio by only 8.8% and not the double digit blowout trumpeted for two months by the corporate mass media (CMM). Ohio and Pennsylvania are both bastions of fifties and sixties "white flight" that are suffering economic hard times in post-industrial America. The recent reality of the campaign has been that Clinton, in sharp contrast to her previous incarnation as a northeastern liberal representing a racially diverse constituency, managed to morph into a conservative populist willing to engage bigotry so she could win two large states by less than 10% margins. Not a very convincing performance by a Democratic candidate who must appeal across economic and racial divides in the general election. By now automatic delegates surely must be taking note of the true contours of Clinton's "electability" claims.

For the Record with Joe Liarman

I just want to report that this morning I personally checked John McCain’s bearings. He has not lost any of them. They are all in really great shape."--Senator Joe Lieberman in response to a comment by Senator Barack Obama.

What Obama actually said in context:

This is offensive [John McCain's claim that Hamas endorses Obama], and I think it’s disappointing, because John McCain always says, ‘Well, I’m not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his. For him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don’t need name-calling in this debate.

Wackydoodle sez: I wouldn't let Joe work on my car.


Cindy McCain said on a TV morning show that she would never release her tax returns, even if she was elevated to First Lady. An independently wealthy heiress, she may have good reason to keep her finances, which she thinks have nothing to do with politics, private. The case of William Jefferson Clinton is more troubling, because his wife is using jointly owned assets to finance her increasingly remote chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president. The Clinton tag team arrangement creates an apparent conflict of interest: using former president Bill Clinton as a frontman to raise cash and effectively bypass efforts to make campaign finance more transparent and less subject to influence peddling. Clinton spokesman, Howard Wolfson, disclosed that Hillary's loans to her campaign since April 11th total $6,425,000 and come from Clinton joint assets. Her February loan to her campaign of $5 million came from her own funds. Since leaving the White House Bill has crisscrossed the globe on speaking engagements. He has made 250 speeches and earned more than $40 million in fees over six years. Some sponsors have paid as much as $450,000 to bring him to their events. Some of these speeches were for organizations that have a big stake in government policy or regulation affecting their business or other interests. Some examples:
Citigroup: paid $500,000 for three appearences in 2004 and 2006;
Deutsche Bank paid $300,000 for two speeches in 2005;
Mortgage Bankers Association paid $150,000 for a 2006 speech. Both banks and the association's members would be adversely affected by changes in mortgage regulation in the wake of the sub prime lending crisis.
America's Health Insurance Plans, a health insurance business lobbying group, paid $150,000 for Bill to speak in Las Vegas in 2005. Defeating national health insurance legislation is critical to their industry's continued profitability.
Ronald Burkle: is head of private equity and hedge funds that made Bill millions. The funds are fighting a change in a tax loophole that Hillary favors eliminating.
Jewish Groups have paid more than $3 million for Bill to speak at synagogues and museums. Both Clintons are vocifierous supporters of the state of Israel. She went so far as to express her willingness to "obliterate" Iran.
[cartoon credit: Pat Oliphant]

Friday, May 09, 2008

Le Shorter: Now It's a Mystery

Update: Federal wildlife officials say the six sea lions trapped in a steel cage at Bonneville Dam died of heat prostration. Experts theorize that the trapped marine mammals, which have thick layers of fat for insulation overheated when they were unable to return to the cold river water. Skin lacerations on one of the seals indicate they were under stress. The exact cause of death is beside the point since the animals would not have died but for being trapped by human agents who should be protecting them from harm.

Officials associated with the trapping of sea lions at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River now say there is no evidence that six sea lions were shot to death. However the dead protected mamamls were found inside a closed cage, and its unlikely they died of natural causes. Seals were basking on the floating platforms days before the trapping began. Apparently, necropsies have not yet been performed to shed light on the cause of death. On the legal front, US Humane Society lawyers have obtained an agreement with the Feds to delay any further action against the sea lions until 2009.

'Toontime: A New Kind of Campaign

[credit: Morin, The Miami Herald]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Le Shorter: Sting Like a Bee

Obamanon surpassed the 200,000+ popular vote margin Hillary won in Pennsylvania and gained a margin of 17 contested delegates in his Tar Heel win. A Democratic presidential candidate actually may carry several southern states in the general election, a political event not seen since Nixon converted the South.

Regime Axes EPA Chief

More: Dow Chemical's congressman, nine term Republican David Camp called EPA regulator Mary Gade "unprofessional, vindictive and insulting". Camp is a Dow Chemical millionaire whose financial disclosure statements show he is worth at least $3.6 million of which stock valued at $500,000 to $1 million is invested in Dow. His wife is a Dow Chemical attorney who has a company 401k worth $100,000 to $250,000. Camp received more money in campaign contributions from Dow than any other member of Congress did from a single company. Predictably the League of Conservation Voters gives Camp a ZERO rating on the environment based on his voting record in the 110th Congress. Camp says Dow "wants to do the right thing" but the company has managed to avoid cleanup of contaminated waterways downstream from its plant since 1897. Wackydoodle sez, "Why worry, it all runs downhill."

[posted 5/3/08] One of the first maxims you learn working in Washington, DC is, "the nail sticking out gets hit the hardest." Regional EPA Administrator Mary Gade got whacked by the Regime on Thursday because she dared to oppose Dow Chemical company over its long delayed plans to cleanup dioxin saturated soil around its plant in Midland, Michigan. The contamination extends for fifty miles, and into Lakes Huron and Superior. Dioxin is a deadly toxin that was used in Agent Orange defoliate during the Vietnam War and is known to cause cancer in minute amounts (see graphic). Gade has been placed on administrative leave until her resignation effective June 1st. Gade invoked emergency powers last summer to clean up three severely contaminated areas near the company's Midland headquarters. She ordered more action in November when dioxin levels in a local park exceeded the highest recordings ever found in the US (1.6m ppt). Dow sought to negotiate its cleanup responsibilities, but Gade was not having it, and ended negotiations in January. Dow took the matter over Gade's head to its friends in Washington. The soon former Regional Administrator said her forced resignation was a result of her attempts to get Dow to act on the problem in a comprehensive way. Gade recieved superior performance evaluations while at the agency. She said, "I stand behind what I did and my what my staff did." Imagine that!
[graphic: Chicago Tribune]

US Sued To Put Wolves Back on List

Latest: Federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy has set a hearing for May 29th in Missoula, Montana to hear arguments for putting grey wolves back on the Endangered Species list. The judge refused to grant a government request to delay the hearing saying he was "unwilling to risk more deaths" by delaying a decision for a preliminary injunction.
Update: Some tragic, even barbaric stories about wolf killings in the Northern Rockies are emerging. On the very day that these wolves lost their Endangered Species protection, a crippled wolf named "Limpy," one of the most photographed wolves in Yellowstone's famous Druid Peak pack, was shot to death when he ventured outside the park. Another wolf was stalked for over 35 miles by snowmobile before being overtaken and shot. Another was found dead on the side of the highway, his still-warm body torn apart by bullets. And, tragically, at least four female wolves have been killed just prior to the denning season, which could doom some of the region's wolf pups. Of course the exterminators will accuse people who care about wolves of being incurably sentimental, anthropomorphic or even human haters. But these stories and even more to come demonstrate that these beautiful canines need and deserve protection from man's irrational loathings.

Several environmental groups including have NRDC sued the US to put grey wolves back on the Endangered Species list after the federal government bowed to pressure from western ranchers and hunters and allowed states to resume "management" of their wolf populations. The suit alleges that the states lack laws adequate to protect the animal from a repeat extermination. The removal of federal protection has resulted in the indiscriminate killing of wolves in Idaho and Wyoming. Part of the hunting and ranching culture in these states is to treat canis lupus, an intelligent apex predator that plays a significant role in maintaining ecological balance, as vermin. Wolves are again being gun downed on sight. Since delisting on March 28th 37 wolves have been killed or about 2% of the population according to an AP report. Wolves were brought back from the brink of extermination through federal protection when 66 wolves were imported from Canada thirteen years ago. Estimates are that 1500 wolves now inhabit the northern US Rockies.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Le Shorter: A Cost of Endless War

Of the 1.6 million US soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, 18-20 percent--about 300,000-- suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome. Few seek treatment through DoD or VA because of the social stigma attached to psychiatric care. If left untreated the syndrome can lead to suicide, alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence, homelessness or other life threatening behaviors. It's really not safe out there, Lanny.

The Malaise

You may remember Jimmy Carter's speech about a pervasive malaise that infects American society if you are too old to be a member of the digital generation. That televised speech and the Iranian hostage crisis cost him a second term as president. I think Carter had a point, just like Senator Obama has about racism. But typically Carter's meaning was distorted by corporate mass media and his political enemies. I believe when using the term "malaise" he was referring to the crass materialism and spiritual alienation which pervades our society. The symptoms are many, but once the premise is accepted easy to discern. This week we had two major examples of irrational human greed overriding compassion for our fellow creatures. While penned in a wire cage waiting for their relocation, six sea lions captured by federal wildlife authorities at the base of Bonneville Dam were shot to death. Such a wanton and senseless act of destruction has shocked many residents of Stump Town which takes pride in its image as a progressive city that embraces an ecological ethic. The vandal or vandals who perpetrated the outrageous act may have accomplished what wildlife advocates could not. The capture program has been suspended while a criminal investigation is underway. Killing a protected marine mammal could result in a stiff penalty of jail time and up to a $20,000 fine. In the meantime the seals are preparing to migrate south away from the greedy humans who refuse to share the salmon that remain.

So too was the thoroughbred filly, Eight Bells, sacrificed to the god Mamon on the altar of Churchill Downs. The courageous young female horse was entered into a cruel contest of speed and endurance against 19 colts brimming with at least testosterone. Perhaps an equine vet in a moment of tearful candor will admit that the 400 year breeding of these magnificent animals has reached the edge of the envelope. Thoroughbreds carry 1000 pounds, in addition to an enraged primate on their backs, on ankles the size of a human's. The pounding their slender limbs take while running at thirty miles an hour or more simply cannot be supported by skeletons attached to muscles unnaturally enlarged by man's craven ingenuity. Many racers also die of cardiac arrest. On average there are two breakdowns a day in the United States while racing. As a ratio of fatal injuries to competitions the death rate exceeds human prizefighting, motorsports and greyhound racing. Whipped on by a jockey whose only goal was winning, Eight Bells was game true to her breed but came second and lame, more a victim of her owners' greed than the brutal physics of the racetrack.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Tonkin II

No one has accused the current Regime of originality. If a trick works once use it again. When Lyndon Johnson wanted to take America to war against North Vietnam he used a trumped up confrontation between US Navy warships and North Vietnamese patrol boats in the Gulf of Tonkin to stampede Congress into giving him authority to wage war. The Charlatan almost got his version of Tonkin handed to him in January when Iranian patrol boats brazenly approached Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf. According to Centcom staff officers, the American naval commander was going to fire on the Iranians when then Centcom commander, Admiral William Fallon intervened and told him not to do so. Fallon's diffusion of the tense encounter infuriated the Charlatan. The admiral retired abruptly in March. The Regime's all-purpose hero, Gen. David Petraeus, was recently designated to replace Admiral Fallon whose disdain for the Iraq invasion was too well known in Washington.

The near miss of three wars going at once has not stopped the petro-imperialists in the bunker from launching a covert war effort against Iran. According to journalist Alexander Cockburn, the Regime received bipartisan approval from congressional intelligence committees for a first installment of $300 million to launch the effort against Iran and it's interests in the Middle East. According to sources quoted by Cockburn, the scope of the presidential finding authorizing the espionage is "unprecedented", and covers all types of covert action including assassination of targeted officials. Once again American will be financially supporting some unsavory and radical partners such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that has made the State Department's list of terrorist organizations (1997), Iranian Kurdish nationalists, and the Sunni militia Jundallah that operates across the border in Afghanistan. What unintended consequences--"blowback" in the parlance of the espionage trade--will occur from our nation's support of these lawless tribal and sectarian rebels remains to be experienced. To judge by the blowback from our support of the Baathist party in Iraq and the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, consequences once they arrive will not be good.
More: Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, said in an interview that an aerial attack on the Iran's Revolutionary Guard command and control structure is a "virtual guarantee" in the near term. The claim was routinely denied by the Pentagon. Ritter also maintains that the Syrian facility recently attacked by the Israeli Air Force was probably a very small research reactor that could not have produced weapons grade uranium or plutonium. After the attack US intelligence found no radiation signatures that indicated the presence of these materials.

Friday, May 02, 2008

'Toontime: GOP Tin Hats

[credit: Richard Crowson,The Wichita Eagle]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

For the Record with Rev. John Hagee

"As a nation, America is under the curse of God, even now. Look at the scriptures and see for yourself. The stand we have taken on abortion, the stand we have taken against God in our classrooms, just may have sealed or doom."--Rev. John Hagee, Day of Deception (1997)

Wackydoodle sez: "What's good for the goose is good for the other goose."