Friday, July 31, 2015

'Toontime: Roll On, Columbia!

The Current Occupant made an appearance on the Daily Show:

credit: Michael Raimirez
Wackydoodle sez That there minion looks like ma relative!
While his/hers erstwhile replacement encounters more flack from the right about her sloppy email hygene:

credit: Michael Raimirez
BC Idonwanna sez: See sign of arrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

COTW: It Just Keeps Getting Mo' Spensive

The private market kluge that is the Affordable Health Care Act was never destined to bring down the price of healthcare in the US.  Because it required insurers to sell insurance to those with prior conditions, it was guaranteed to increase health care premiums. These charts include data up to 2012, but the trends have continued unabated. The White House now has to brag about a slower rate of increase!  The first chart is the Milliman Medical Index that shows the annual cost of health for a family of four:

source: Forbes

The largest component of those expenditures is of course health care insurance premiums:

These increases are being paid mostly by the worker in the form of payroll deductions while earnings are barely keeping track with inflation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tiger Numbers Shrink Further

On the world's Tiger Day, the news is not good. More tigers (Panthera tigris) live in captivity than in the wild. The last plausible estimate was made in 2010 and stood at 3200 still living in the wild. Remaining population are isolated and under increasing pressure from humans who consume not only forest resources but the tiger itself. Tigers are in conflict with humans around the globe because they are forced by humans to prey on their livestock that causes their retaliation. It is a death loop for tigers. Ninety-seven percent of tigers disappeared during the 20th century when their population dropped from 100,000 to current levels.

@ Frankfurt Zoo by Moni Sertel
Range countries are counting their tigers in order to assess ways to protect them. Bhutan said it has 103 tigers living within its borders, more than the previous estimate of 75. However populous and impoverished Bangladesh only counted 106 wild tigers in its first national estimate, less than expected. Southeast Asia is facing a tiger crisis because numbers are so low and the countries in the region are doing little to conserved remaining populations. Many are not even conducting surveys. The region is also plagued by a rampant black market in tiger parts and skins. Malaysian experts said tiger numbers there have fallen to as few as 250 individuals down from 500. No breeding populations are thought to exist in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Numbers are unknown for Idonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. There are some signs of progress as Thailand's government is organizing an assessment of tigers in the country, Malaysia intends to conduct its first survey, and Cambodia is interested in translocated tigers with WWF help.

Other tiger range countries are doing better conserving remaining tiger populations. Russia's May survey found 540 tigers and Nepal's last survey in 2013 found in increase from 155 to 198. Their are indications tigers are migrating and settling in remote northeastern China. Developed countries like German are willing to help range countries. The IUCN in partnership with the German Development Bank began its Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Program in 2014. The first projects will be launched soon. What is happening to the tiger is not unique. Other species and their habitats are disappearing at a disastrous rate. What makes this 6th extinction so tragic is that man, who has dominion over this fellow creatures, can repair the devastation he has wrought if he only commits to doing so.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seabirds Decline Worldwide

Researchers in British Columbia, Canada report that monitored seabird populations have dropped 70% since the 1950's. The information came from a compilation of 500 seabird populations around the world representing 19% of the global population. The magnitude of the loss in the monitored population represents about 230 million birds have perished in the last 60 years. The lead author of the published study said seabirds are a good indicator of the health of marine ecosystems. Such a decline in bird numbers represents a serious imbalance in the ecosystem and an indicator of the adverse impact of humanity.

Laysan Albatross, credit Audubon
Albatrosses are particularly impacted. They live long lives and travel immense distances while encountering many dangers. A major threat to these beautiful birds is entanglement in longline fishing gear. The problem kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds evey year. Overfishing causes seabird mortality since they rely on fish for food. Pollution and introduced preditors also are major causes of mortality. One example of an introduced species causing seabird decline occurs on Johnston Atoll, the former site of US nuclear testing in the Pacific. There 14 species of seabirds are sometimes overwhelmed on their nests by yellow crazy ants. These ants are not native to the Pacific, but arrived from elsewhere aboard ships. They spray an acid that can blind or mame those birds that do not flee. Unable to nest in infested areas despite attempts at erradication by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, seabird populations have dropped, but some success has occurred. Tropic bird numbers in treated areas  have increased from 54 to 524.

The study by University of British Columbia researchers is the first to estimate the decline in available global seabird population data. It is an alarming discovery since seabirds play crucial roles in their ecosystem as prey and preditor and transport vital nutrients for entire food webs. Increased and effective seabird conservation is necessary on a global scale to prevent their collapse.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Turtles For Sale

A Chinese businessman living in the Phillipines was caught last month storing 4000+ turtles like lumber in a Palawan wharehouse awaiting shipment to China. Most of the turtles were in very poor health from severe neglect and long captivity. They were stored dozens deep in concrete tanks. The turtle inventory included 3800 critically endangered Phillipine forest turtles; only 2500 are thought to remain in the wild. Either the population estimates are wrong or the illegal traffickers have captured almost all of the remaining wild turtles. Siebenrockiella leytensis is endemic to only the northern half of Palawan Island and Dumaran Island and is protected under both Phillipine and international law. Their rarity has sparked intense demand among greedy humans causing a wholely illlegal trade to spring up. Most specimens end up on Chinese breeding farms to be sold as pets or food. Turtles sell for between $53 and $75 dollars in the Phillipines and much more in China.

released turtles, credit Katala Foundation
The seizure may be the single largest ever of rare turtle caught in the illegal international trade. Their future is grim. Many died after being removed to improvised shelters erected by volunteers because of their weak condition. Forest turtles are shy by nature and are easily stressed to death when kept in groups. They are susceptible to shell rot and skin problems and do not thrive when kept in captivity. Many of the rescued turtles suffer from bite wounds, ulcers, starvation and dehydration. Rescuers are engaged in triage and care for the sick and dying. Individuals that are not in need of extensive rehabilitation are released back into the wild where they face being captured again by the rapacious traffickers. About 2200 have been released so far. International help is coming in the form of skilled volunteers and money. The Turtle Survival Alliance is accepting donations.

An illegal trove of protected turtles destined for the market in China is only a small part of a much broader problem in Asia now reaching into Africa and South American. Hordes of Chinese with new-found wealth are demanding previously luxurious foodstuffs, creating a demand than unscruplous traders are willing to supply at high prices. Turtles are found in rural areas where poverty is common, so if a trafficker offers people money for turtles, they are going to take it. So far there has been little effective law enforcement. It may be too late for the turtles, if humans decide to get serious about saving them from extinction.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Did the Banksters Do Greece In?

We all know that in the US, land of capitalism, the banskters peadled fraudulent investments that caused the system to panic in 2008. They got bailed out by the taxpayers, nobody worth a headline went to jail for the fraud, and a few years later everybody on the Street sees happy days again. What we do not know is to what extent Greece, much less comitted to the capitalist line, was also sold a bill of goods by Goldman Sachs.

Greece's financial problems began when it was attempting to join the eurozone. Under the Masstricht agreement, EU governments had to meet certain public finance goals. Greece could not met those without fudging and when in 2009 a new government under Georges Papandreou suddenly found out that its deficit was "suddenly" bigger than expected, its debt became unmanageable. There are questions about how the deficit suddenly got larger revolving around Andreas Georgiou the president of Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). A former colleague testified to parliament under oath that Georgiou was a pawn of Eurostat, overseeing the Masstricht criteria. He issued statistics under his own authority that made Greece's deficit appear bigger than it should by doing things like including public utilities in the deficits. The larger than expected deficit size drove Greek bond spreads through the roof, making the first and second bailouts by the EU and IMF necessary. ELSTAT testimony is that if the statistics produced were accurate and not cooked, the first and second bailouts for Greece would not have been necessary. The really sad part is that of €110bn loaned in the first bailout, only 10% ever reached the Greek economy. Most of it went to corrupt Greek banks that had lent too much to begin with.

The hook was in and set. Papandreou asked for a referendum on "austerity" and was promptly removed. His successor Lucas Papademos, a eurocrat, fared no better. A second bailout of €136bn was pushed through parliament amid riots and burning buildings. The demanded austerity program with its painful cuts in social spending and pensions, tax increases and public assets sales guaranteed a plunge in Greece's troubled economy that is driven primarily by domestic consumption. Rebelling against the destruction of their economy by 'internal deflation' imposed from without, Greeks elected a socialist coalition, Syriza, that promised to end the so-called austerity regime. In the referendum held this year Greeks voted for their freedom, but were betrayed once again by their supposedly leftist coalition government made up of economic elites. Thirty-nine Syriza MPs defected to vote against the latest euro bailout demands, but that was not enough to out-vote the right that cannot imagine a country outside the eurozone. The Prime Minister characterized his collapse in Brussels as "not having the authority to take Greece out of the eurozone".  That was a disingenuous summation of the crisis. Greeks did not want to leave, true, but they would have been forced out by Germany, the major state creditor, if they had not submitted.

The predatory lender had entered earlier in 2001 when Greece was looking for ways to reduce or disguise its mounting fiscal troubles. Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein sold Greek officials a complicated "currency swap" in the amount of 2.8bn€ in which Greece's foreign currency debt was exchanged for domestic currency obligations at a favorable exchange rate. The result was that Greece's national debt was reduced by about 2%. For that piece of financial wizardry Goldman received a €600m fee or about 12% of Goldman's trading revenue in 2001. It was an attractive deal for Greek officials facing near insurmountable debt and Masstricht restrictions because it allowed the government to hide some of its obligations off national accounts. JP Morgan did a similar deal for Italy in the 1990s. But the Greek swap went bad as bond yields plunged after 9/11, doubling its off-the-book liability under the swap from €2.8bn to €5.1bn. That amount of debt was locked in when the swap was restructured in 2005 by Mario Draghi then managing director of Goldman's international division; he is now head of the ECB, one of the troika of Greek creditors forcing the Greek people into submission.

The banksters were not done ringing out the Greek economy for all it was worth. In 2009 just a few months before the Greek predicament was made public news, Goldman offered another financial gimmick that would have pushed Greece's health care system debt far into the future, but this time Greek politicians avoided the moral hazard. Wall Street's method learned from the Rothschilds is tried and true, but perhaps not used against an entire European country before. Mitt Romney used it at Bain Capital for corporate takeovers: load up companies with leveraged debt, strip valuable company assets, and then throw the debt-laden carcass back onto the public market. It was the banksters who leveraged Greece beyond redemption for greed and ideology with the cooperation of corrupt Greek elites. When the country came crawling on its knees for relief from unsustainable loans, they demanded Greeks dismantle their socialist state by selling them the hard goods at discount prices. So now Hannah, the Greeks must join the Irish and the Portuguese as the plutocracy's debt slaves for years to come. That's why their knees are dirty.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Al Gore Interview: "A Nature Hike through Revelations"

The Guardian interviewed Al Gore about his views on a 2015 Paris Agreement for climate warming, his response to the Pope's moral leadership on the environment, and the need to reform capitalism so it recognizes that so-called "uncompensated externalities" are in reality, NOT:

Friday, July 24, 2015

'Toontime: The Choice 2016

credit: Michael Raimrez
Wackydoodle sez: Everybody knows Hillary's only a champaign socialist!
Seems the choice is boiling down to a "crazy old socialist" and more crazy old nativists who may or may not be war heros depending on your definition of "collaboration". Is this the best 'Merica can do? God help us if it is, is:

credit: Ted Rall
BC Idonwanna sez: Me like 'em crazy man with good scalp!
None of these cardboard cutouts, except perhaps Bernie Sanders, who the pundits say has zero chance of sitting in the office without corners, is talking about real issues that affect real 'Mericans.  For your consideration: one of the reasons US Person advocated single-payer health insurance is because the so-called free market does not engender free competition. It engenders consolidation and oligopoly.  Sure enough, Anthem announced it is buying out Cigna for a whopping $54.2bn, leaving only three major US health insurers.  Where does Anthem get that much money to buy out a major competitor? From the money it makes in a broken system where profits come before health care.  The deal comes only a month after Aetna acquired Humana for $37bn. Numerous economic studies show that consolidation leads to higher prices. It is time to end the insanity of health care for profit. Each citizen is entitled to a basic level of health care, free. That is the bottom line accepted by other civilized countries, and a single-payer system is the cheapest way to get from here to there. No double-talking politician worried about his war record can deny this fact: the US has the highest cost of health care in the world, yet delivers the worse care among eleven industrialized nations.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Members of Congress To Introduce $15/hr Bill

After New York passed a law requiring some fast food restaurants to pay their low-wage workers $15/hr, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) plan to introduce legislation to raise the federal miniumum wage to $15/hr.  Details are to be released today.  The increase is substantially more than previous Democratic proposals.  The Current Occupant only proposed an increase to $9/hr and some congresspeople proposed $12/hr by 2020.  Los Angeles', San Francisco's and Seattle's city councils recently raised their minimum to $15 to be phased in over a period of years.  Repeated strikes accross the country by low-wage fast-food workers have influenced reluctant politicians' thinking on the issue. The sticking point for Repugnants is the repeated claim that raising the minimum wage that high will hurt economic activity.  Research shows that business could absorb the higher labor costs by reducing turnover, higher prices and more economic growth.  States that have increased their minimum wage have experienced above average growth in jobs.

White Pelicans Suffer from BP Spill

The brown pelican became the symbol of the Deepwater Horizon disaster after pictures of oil soaked birds circulated through the Internet and television. It is the migrating American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) that is providing the latest evidence of the oil spill's lasting environmental impact. Mark Neuzil tells us in the latest issue of Audubon Magazine, that scientists from North Dakota State University are finding traces of oil and dispersant contamination from the Gulf in eggs and nuptial tubercles [bill knob, photo] that the white pelicans shed each mating season. The samples come from Marsh Lake on the Minnesota River where 14,000 pelican pairs nest each May and June. Marsh Lake is over 1400 miles from the Gulf. American white pelicans migrate all the way into Canada's prairie provinces. The verification of damage to wildlife protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is important in determining how money from the various lawsuits against BP is distributed. Making the connection between BP-caused contamination and remote species is not easy, but the researchers say their results are consistent with that hypothesis. Further anaylsis of the samples may offer more conclusive proof since oil from a particular field has a definitive spectroscopy. Other researchers are planning to fit pelicans with GPS units so their migratory routes and stopovers can be precisely located. The data will help pinpoint areas that should be priorities for conservation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Panthera Founder Sells Spitfire Mk1

The founder of Panthera, the global conservation group specializing in saving members of the genus Panthera, Dr. Thomas A. Kaplan, recently donated his family's restored Spitfire Mk1A for auction at Cristie's London. The historic aircraft sold for $4,784,010, a new record for any Spitfire sale. Spitfire #P9374/G was shot down over Calais beach during the evacuation of the British army in 1940. It remained buried in the beach until discovered in 1980. Only one of two fully restored Mk1As able to fly, the other was donated to the Duxford Imperial War Museum by Dr. Kaplan and his wife, Daphne. A significant amount of the sale price will be donated to the charity Dr. Kaplan founded in 2006 to change big cat conservation by using scientific data to create solutions to the threats facing their survival in the wild. A beautiful war machine's price may help save some of Earth's most beautiful creatures live into the 21st century.

Southern California Mountain Lions Face Death by Humans

It is not surprising that mountain lions (Puma concolor) living in densely populated Southern California face slow extinction at the hands of humans. {15.10.14}Although hunting the big cat is illegal in the state, a long term study by UC Davis scientists shows that humans caused more than half the known deaths of mountain lions during the 13 year study. Other causes related to humans--vehicle collisions, poaching, or wildfires--reduced annual survival rates to about 56%. One major obstacle to lion proliferation the study found is I-15, the major interstate connecting San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties. It has proven to be impossible for lions to cross, resulting in a population with declining genetic diversity, long term health and survival. The study's lead author at the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, says nowhere else in the US except Florida are mountain lions so cut off from habitat and with survival rates so low. The Santa Ana population is especially threatened. Translocations must be considered in order to save from further genetic decline warns the study. Connecting this isolated population with other mountain lions is preferable and could be done by creating safe wildlife crossings at critical junctures. Finding funding for building wildlife crossings in a megatropolis built for highways is not a high priority. Man has forced these creatures to live in his midst, so he should rightly provide means for their continued survival.

COTW: Forgetaboutem

This chart is U-6, the broadest official measure of umemployment.  It includes unemployed, marginally attached workers, plus part-time for economic reasons. While it has gone down during the "recovery"  it is still above 10% and hides a much more worrisome  trend:

That trend is to simply write off people who are not counted in the labor force because they have not looked for work actively by punching their ticket at the local employment office but who want a job now. According to government statistics the number who are in that uncounted category is 6,076,000, about a 1% decrease from a year ago. So if unemploment is droping why not this number too? The answer is that more people are dropping out of the labor market, and its not just over 65 retirees. This chart shows that as the population has increased, the number of people not counted in the work force, and not institutionalized, is increasing faster:

So although the employment picture is improving if you listen to the hacks of the CMM, it is improving partly because fewer long-term unemployed people are looking for work anymore. It is typical to see not-in-labor force gains of half a million in each new current population survey. As a trend, the annual increase in long term unemployed started in 2009 (below).  The labor participation rate is 62.6% the lowest since October 1977, before minorities and women entered the labor market in force.  Recovery for the displaced wage slave? Not so much because you just do not count.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Cali Regulators Propose Fine for Water Stealers

California's millenial drought has wrought strange behaviors.  California water regulators proposed for the first time to fine a group of senior appropriators in the Central Valley $1.5 million for illegally taking water.  Historically sheltered from restrictions because of the seniority of their withdrawal rights--more than a century old--the proposal indicates the severity of the drought.  California Water Resources Control Board said teh Byron-Bethany Irrigation District in the Bay Area illegally took water from a pumping plant after the owners were told in June there was not enough water to meet their appropriations.  The Board sent out more than 9000 notices across the parched valley warning that there was not enough water to meet demands.  The District serves 160 farming families in three Central Valley counties.  Crop losses are estimated at $65 million.  State officials have only come down on two cases of illegal withdrawals in 1200 investigations.  Byron-Bethany was singled out because of its public defiance of regulators.  The District has legal process rights, of course, which it is exercising.  The maximum fine in the case is $5 million.  Yet to be settled by California courts is the question of whether the state board has the authority to order cutbacks from senior appropriators.

Large Pipeline Spill in Alberta

Spills are inevitable in the oil "bidness" because of the sheer volume, distance and the mechanical contrivances used to deliver it from the ground to the consumer. Alberta experienced its largest pipeline spill in the thirty-five years when a leak was discovered Wednesday.  Thirty-one thousand barrels of emulsion--a mix of bitumen, produced water and sand--spilled out into the path of the pipeline covering 170,000 square feet located south of Ft. McMurray at Nexen's Long Lake tar sands facility.  Nexen reports that the spill has been contained and the broken pipeline isolated.

On the other side of the world a fisherman reported to authorities that he saw an oil slick 1km long in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef off Townsville.  Small oily patches about 1m in diameter have also been spotted.  The Austrailian Maritime Safety Authority is investigating the sightings.  This incident occurs after Australia just missed having the Reef listed as "in danger" by UNESCO earlier this month.  The World Heritage committee gave Australia five years to halt deterioration of the natural wonder.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Royal Connection

US Person wants to start off this post straight away by saying he likes Queen Elizabeth. She is terribly expensive (£35.7m/yr), but she does achieve good press and pomp for the UK most of the time. That said, he is a republican with a small r, meaning he subscribes to democratic values. A monarchy is not one of those values, nor is the ability of the royal family to hide less appropriate images of itself in archives that are off-limits to the public. The monarchy is after all a public institution that survives on the public purse.

The latest flap over a young Princess Elizabeth giving the then new and silly Nazi salute (front page of the tabloid, The Sun) in a 1933 family video is, on the surface, rather silly in itself. But the video represents something much more embarrassing to the royals: the close relationship between its members and the Nazi regime in the thirties. Look at the 1937 photo of an openly admiring Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Not exactly a couple of Nazi haters, what? This photo was taken after the brutal intentions of the Nazis were fairly well known to the elite of Europe. The Dachau concentration camp was already open for business, taking in communists and homosexuals or anyone else critical of the new Nazi regime.  Edward, Prince of Wales, who appears in the video and encourages his 9 year-old niece to give the salute, was particularly known for his sympathy towards fascism. The cozy relationship between the germanic House of Windsor, formerly Sachen-Coburg und Gotha (9 Nazi party members), is the subject of a book by Karina Urbach at the University of London, Go-Betweens for Hitler. She says part of the shock associated with seeing a child princess and her mother give a Nazi salute is the fact no one is allowed to research in the royal archives at Windsor Castle's Round Tower relating to anything political after 1918. Urbach also says there was a purge of material after 1945. George VI sent Anthony Blunt, later outted as a Soviet spy but kept on the royal payroll, to remove an incriminating German Foreign Office "Windsor File" from Friedrichschof Castle and Marlenburg Castle. The Windsor File was eventually discovered in 1945. Churchill found the contents so distressing he asked Eisenhower to keep them secret for ten years. The documents were finally published in 1950.  After the Duchess of Windsor's death in 1988, royal staff removed letters from her estate so that very few of the Duke of Kent's correspondence is accounted for.  Most official royal documents from the 30's and 40's are classified secret until 2037, the so-called "100 year rule".

Sir Oswald Mosley inspects British fascists
Such absence of legitimate access is undemocratic. An influential Labour MP and member of Parliament's  constitutional committee wants access to the royal archives granted to researchers. Considering that the future king Charles is one of the "most influential lobbyist in the land", he said "we need to know the truth of it", referring to the relationship between a once future king who flirted with Nazis and Blackshirts. Aristocrat Oswald Mosley, whose first wedding was attended by George V, was a notorious anti-Semite and fascist right down to his jackboots. George VI and Edward VIII were both Germans through their mother, Mary of Teck, and great grandfather, Prince Albert. Prince Phillip had four sisters, three of whom were Nazi party members and one was married to a Luftwaffe pilot. His friend, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was a member of the SS. Thanks to the intervention of George VI, he was given a job in the Allied War Planning Councils after fleeing to England! Edward VIII was perhaps the most fawning British royal when it came to the Third Reich. He communicated with Hitler, who hoped Edward might become his "puppet king". Windsor thought a war was being fomented by "Reds and Jews", and that Hitler, "is a very great man".  After abdicating the throne to marry American Wallace Simpson, the couple traveled to Berlin and Berchtesgaden in 1937 to meet the "great man".

The Nazi associations go on. In the 30s and 40s, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and the Duke of Kent all worked for a German-British alliance. They led the anti-Churchill movement through to 1941. Edward went so far as to tell Hitler via an aristocratic relative, Duke Carl, that a German-British alliance was a political and military necessity. Some speculate that Edward's abdication was as an excuse used by Prime Minister Baldwin to remove a monarch that was too friendly to Nazi Germany. As late as 1938 George VI, seeking to strengthen relations with the Nazis, joined the German Hunting Brotherhood. He was unable to see Hitler himself so he sent his younger brother, the Duke of Kent, as envoy instead. Finally outraged by Edwards efforts from occupied Paris to appease the Nazi regime that wanted him restored to the throne he abdicated, Churchill ordered him to the Bahamas as British Governor for the duration. He even had to threaten Edward with a court-martial when he dragged his feet en route at Lisbon to intrigue with Nazi operatives. He left Lisbon on August 1, 1940, a year after England had declared war.  Buckingham Palace was bombed nine times in the ensuing weeks; a bomb exploded one floor below the king's study. King George took it personally.

Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh, 2nd r, at sister's funeral
Of course these alarming royal connections must be understood in the context of the times.  The Great Depression was devastating the middle class, so the social gap between aristocrats and ordinary citizens was never wider in modern times.  European elites were obsessed with the threat communism posed to their affluence. Fascism was widely viewed as an acceptable alternative to the "red menace". Echos of British aristocratic fascism are seen in the period film drama, Remains of the Day. However, actual historical context in which to understand their obvious naiveté about German fascism is exactly what is missing because the royals can suppress their sometime questionable past behind privilege. There is no room for such privilege in an era of corporatist dominion; who knows what other shocking material lies hidden in the Round Tower?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Administration Authorizes Fracking in Chaco Canyon

great kiva at Chetro Ketl
It maybe creating new national monuments, but it is threatening existing historic ruins in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico by authorizing fracking operations near the national park. Fracking causes seismic activity that could severely damage ancient buildings and roads in the World Heritage site. The Canyon is considered sacred by local Native Americans. The BLM has approved more than 250 fracking proposals around the park, but conservation groups are opposing the agency's action in federal court by asking for a new environmental impact study. Methane emissions in the four corners region of New Mexico are already the highest in the country. Chaco Canyon sits atop the Marcellus shale formation in the San Juan basin, a major source of oil and natural gas.

On Monday, the court began hearing arguments about whether to enjoin new permiting until the case is resolved. Ecana Corp. of Canada and WPX Energy of Oklahoma have drilled about 150 wells since 2011. BP and Conoco-Phillips are also interested in the Marcellus so they have joined the suit. A company attorney told the court that over $1 million has been spent developing the field. Current drilling is based on a twelve year old "resource management plan" that was developed by BLM before fracking and horizontal drilling techniques were widely used. BLM intended to supplement the old plan to include the new technology, but conservationists say that is inadequate to protect local native communities, the environment, and historic buildings from the adverse impacts of fracking. Gov. Susana Martinez has asked the Department of Interior to support the BLM's handling of the issue in the federal lawsuit.

Friday, July 17, 2015

COTW: The German Elephant

Latest: Germany has forced Greece to lower its flag once again. After an extended debate in the German parliament, the go-ahead to begin negotiations on a third eurozone bailout was given. Until negotiations are completed Greece was given a bridge loan of €7bn euros to cover repayments coming due. Greece will have to swallow a considerable loss of soverignty in return for being allowed to use a hard currency. The IMF, not entirely under EU control, gave Greece a crying towel of sorts: it said in its latest assessment of the Greek economy that the amount of debt Greece has--around €326bn is unsustainable and will require restructuring on scale not previously contemplated. Their are indications that Europe will include debt relief in the new credit package. The bailout agreement must be passed by several governments before August 20th, the due date of Greece's next large debt repayment to the ECB. In the meantime, Greece's VAT will go up Monday from 13% to 23%

Further: {14.07.15}Prime Minister Alexis Tspris came back from Brussels with a crushed, empty cup. Hoping to rest some concessions from his nation's creditors, he only brought back more demands for further "austerity" as a precondition for more loans. The most onerous is privatization of ports, electrical transmission network, and other state assets worth €50bn. His leftist coalition party, Syriza, was elected on a promise among others that it would end the drastic program of state divestment required by creditors. He now faces the problem of getting these demands and more approved by parliament after the Greek people rejected previous creditor demands. While austerity in return for being allowed to stay in the eurozone may be acceptable to the right and center, it is not acceptable to much of the Greek left. Tspris may end up governing from a minority position in parliament.

As explained by an expert in Greek economic matters, the opportunity to modernize Greece's economy was squandered after the miltary junta left power in the 1970's. It is unreasonable to expect Greece to undergo radical economic reformation in the space of a few months that would otherwise take generations to accomplish. For example, despite decades of trying, the country still does not have a modern land title registry.  It is also being asked to overall its civil code of procedure in Greek courts by July 22nd to "significantly accelerate the judicial process." A tightening of labor laws aimed at Greece's powerful unions, obliquely termed "modernization" in the Eurogroup's summit memorandum, is also listed as a goal to accomplished before a new aid program can begin. Tspris may be hoping to simply do enough to get Greek banks open again under ECB control and resume negotiations on an €82bn EU bailout, but that will not be enough to solve Greece's fundamental economic problems and will impose further social hardships on Greeks contrary to his party's promises to them. By caving into the bankers' infexible repayment demands, the Prime Minister who was once seen as Greece's savior, risks turning his nation into a German capitalist colony for decades to come.  Power does not always come from the end of a gun as Germany has demonstated in these negotiations.

Latest:{10.07.15}The latest twist in the extended Greek tragedy is the unexpected policy reversal of Syriza leadership to keep Greece in the euro zone. Some critics are calling it a betrayal of the referendum held last Sunday since the latest proposals offered by the ruling party and endorsed by the Greek parliament early Saturday are substantially similar to those rejected by Greeks in the vote. The real tragedy is that another bail out by Europe will not solve Greece's severe economic problems over the longer term. More bailout loans will keep the nation's banks solvent, but even German leaders now recognize that Greece's debt load is unsustainable. If the EU member nations agree this Sunday to accept Greece's proposals and provide a third tranche of loans, it will be palatable deal for the majority of Greeks if it is eventually followed by debt restructuring. Berlin's leverage, as expected, only increases as the crisis goes on. Greece faces a repayment to the ECB of 3.5bn on July 20th. Most experts think that the EU will accept the latest Greek proposal since France and Italy are behind Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' concessions. Berlin is still taking a sceptical line since it does not want its taxpayers picking up the bill for what it perceivea as Greek irresponsibility. What the capitulation means for Tsipras' ruling majority also remains to be seen since most of the reforms offered must be implemented between July and October. Several of the reforms are controversial and cross Syriza's electorial "red lines" such as a VAT increase, more pension cuts, more privatization, and an increase in personal and corporate income tax. At the end of a sad day, Greece is no longer in full control of its fiscal and social policies having been forced to accept the dictats of the international banking cartel, notwithstanding the expressed will of its people. Oh democracy, how briefly you bloomed!

Update:{08.07.15}The gauntlet has been thrown down by EU leaders. Greece must acceed to their demands for more reforms or face a forced exit from the single currency zone. Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission said "the last possible moment will be Friday morning" for Greece to respond.  A EU summit meeting is set in Brussels for Sunday. Donald Tusk, European Council President said that Greece's exit from the zone cannot be ruled out.  Europe has a "Grexit scenario prepared in detail', according to Junker.  Greece has only formally asked for three more years of bailout money and promised it would implement a"comprehensive set of reforms" beginning with tax reforms and pension measures as "early as next week". According to Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, Greece's Plan B is "another currency". Although adoption of the euro is supposed be irrevocable, other members can vote to cut off all aid to Greece.  Then the European Central Bank (ECB) would then stop supplying euros to Greek banks. The Greek government would be forced to issue "IOUs" to meet its obligations that would most likely take the form of new drachmas [above]. Not being Greek, but perhaps Polynesian, US Person can only submit his proxy: in the long-run Greece will be better off outside the zone.

US Person thinks this chart sums up the predicament of Greece in the euro zone. Thankfully, the zone is dominated not by storm troopers, but by Germany's prowess as a exporter of manufactured goods. Since 1952 Germany has achieved an annual trade surplus shown in this chart:

Germany's trade performance compares favorably with much larger exporting nations, the US and China. Germany exports are worth $1.5 trillion compared to the value of US exports of $1.6 trillion. Yet Germany has only 25% of the population. That is good news for Germany's productivity and German workers--not so good news for net importing countries in the zone that run annual budget and trade deficits like Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Because they are locked into a single currency, Germany is able to exploit its productivity advantage and sell relatively low-priced, quality goods to European importer countries. It provides loans to these countries so their demand for German products remains high when German domestic demand has remained flat. Importer countries are encouraged to borrow by the euro's overall strength which allows lower cost borrowing. The single currency zone was supposed to remove the costs of trading in multiple currencies. It has done that, but has also locked-in Germany's competitive trade advantage. Before the single currency, trade imbalances such as the one that exists now between Germany and the its customers were adjusted by the relative value of the importer's currency, i.e. Greek drachma. When the debtor/customers go bust having to pay back mountains of easy credit in euros, like Greece is doing now, who is going to buy German goods in Europe? Perhaps Mr. Schäuble will answer this question?

'Toontime: Making Peace

credit: Monte Wolverton
Ever since Bush I declared Iran a part of the "Axis of Evil", 'Mericans have had a negative attitude toward Iran according to Gallup polls. What is more important is that they no longer consider Iran a major threat; that place of dubious honor goes once again to the arch-rival, Russia. The chances of avoiding war with Iran over their alleged program to develop a nuclear weapon is directly related to whether the agreement reached this week to lift economic sanctions in return for a verifiable civilian nuclear program passes its many partisan critics including the Israel Lobby in Washington, DC. Their memories of Ronald Regan's secret dealing with Iran fades as rapidly as their anti-treaty rehtoric increases in volume. Unfornutately, the agreement has become a pawn of presidential politics. For that reason alone, ratification will probably be delayed until after the election in November, 2016. The fact is very few 'Mericans want to take on Iran in a war that is not certain to be successful stopping an Iranian nuclear weapon.
credit: Matt Wuerker, Politico
BC Idonwanna sez:  Oliver never looked so looney!

Polar Bears Fail to Adapt to Warmer Arctic

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are almost certainly doomed to starve to death as the Arctic continues to warm up.  A study carried out a great expense followed collared polar bears in the Beaufort Sea.  Scientists found that bears do not hibernate during summer season when seals are scarce due to melting sea ice.  They simply slow down and starve.  The prolonged fasting takes a significant physiological toll on the bears.  They also found that polar bears have an amazing ability to swim vast distances in very cold Arctic water.  To avoid unsustainable body heat loss, bears allow their extremities to cool off substantially while protecting their vital organs.  One female that was tracked survived a nine day, 400 mile swim from shore to ice.  She lost 22% of her body mass as well as her cub.  The scientists say that their study results are indisputable, based on actual telemetry from the animals and points toward the species eventual decline.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Another 'Missing Link' Between Dinosaurs and Birds

the skull shows teeth of Zhenyuanlong
Dragons exist in legend and myth, but scientists in China have found a six-foot adolescent dragon that actually lived 125 million years ago. A nearly perfectly preserved siltstone fossil contains the detailed remains of an ancestor of Velociraptor that had wings. Because the wings are relatively small it is not likely the dinosaur named Zhenyuanlong suni (Zhenyuan's dragon) could fly, but it had carnivorous teeth and undoubtably could rapidly chase prey on its long legs. One scientist called the find the "most beautiful fossil [he] had the privilege to work on." It was originally discovered by a farmer who donated it to the Jinzhou Paleontological Museum. Investigators say the fossil is rare compared to other dromaeosaurids found in Liaoning Province, northeast China due to its large body size and tiny forearms. Most other dromaeosuarids found to date, such as Microraptor, are the size of a domestic cat. The results of a scientific collaboraton between the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences are reported in the journal, Scientific Reports.

artist Z. Chuang
Early critics of Darwin & Wallace pointed out that evolution was not supported by the developing fossil records of the time because they did not reveal intermediate species expected if the theory was accurate. Since then many intermediate fossils have been found and studied. This spectacular piece of limestone is one such find. It shows a dramaeosaurid on the cusp of becoming something entirely different--a bird. Feather impressions are clearly visible in the fossil and cover the animal's body as well as forelimbs that eventually evolved into functional wings. Forelimb and tail feathers are true pin feathers--coverts, primaries and secondaries--used by modern birds for flight. This latest find from the epicenter of palentology, Liaoning Province, is as important as the discovery of Archaeopteriyx, the first complete ancient bird fossil ever found. It is generally thought that Archaeopteriyx could fly or glide short distances.  Biomechanical analysis of Zhenyaunlong's dragon is necessary before a definitive conclusion on its ability to fly is reached.

COTW: A Downward Tale of Two Charts

These two charts are somewhat dated, but were picked by The Atlantic as two of the most important charts of 2011.  Their message is still relevant and accurate today. US Person will let you, the reader, exercise some brain cells and assess their meaning:

Class warfare? You decide.  If you think electing Hillary Clinton, darling front for the plutocracy will alter this inequitable state of affairs, think again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Accountant of Auschwitz

Update: Oskar Groening, 94, was sentenced to four years imprisonment for being an accessory to the murderous machinery of Auschwitz concentration camp. The case against Groening featured testimony from several Holocaust survivors. Witnesses said they could not forgive Groening eventhough he was a relatively small cog. Because of the advanced years of survivors and captors, Groening may be one of the last war-time Nazis to be prosecuted for their activities in the "final solution". An estimated one million people lost their lives at Auschwitz.

{03.02.15}Germany will put another elderly Nazi on trial for his war crimes. On Monday a German court said a former SS guard at Auzschwitz, Oskar Groening age 93, will stand trial in April on charges that he was an accessory to the murder of 300,000 people at the camp and supporting the Nazi regime economically. He processed the belongings of the victims, but claims he never personally participated in the mass executions. He earned the grim sobriquet, "the Accountant of Auschwitz".

Prosecutors are in a race against death to find and prosecute war-time Nazis who escaped punishment. Bringing criminal prosecutions based on evidence that is seventy years or more old and often fragmentary is difficult and risky. In December a court dismissed a case against a former Waffen-SS soldier accused of being involved in the largest massacre in occupied territory at Oradour-sur-Glane in 1944. The successful prosecution of former camp guard John Demjanjuk for his crimes in 2011 prompted prosecutors to reopen investigation files of hundreds of former death camp guards. {08.05.13, Old Nazis with No Place to Hide} Demjanuk was sentenced to five years in prison but was released early and died while appealing his conviction.

Obama Names More US Monuments

Last Friday, President Obama designated three more national monuments to the chagrin of conservative opponents who see this process to preserve America's last wild places as a cynical way to lock up exploitable natural resources. The designations bring the Current Occupant's count to 19, the most of any president, but behind Carter, Clinton and Roosevelt in total area of lands protected from development by law. The Basin and Range National Monument protects 704,000 acres of undeveloped desert wilderness in Nevada, the largest designation he has made. The Monument surrounds a monumental sculpture entitled City made of earth and stone set within the context of the surrounding desert landscape. The sculpture erected on private land and supported by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, joins ancient pictographs inscribed in stone by native peoples. The desert is an important migration route for mule deer and pronghorn, as well as habitat for the sage grouse. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) was instrumental in getting the designation signed.  The need for preservation of landscape is apparent as the nation's national parks grapple with the influx of more visitors wanting to enjoy the benefits of communing with nature. What they are finding instead are traffic jams and lines that they could have experienced without leaving their cities.

"City" by Michael Heizer
Berryessa-Snow Mountain in Northern California was also designated. It streches 100 miles long and rises from near sea level to 7000 ft. The mountain is a biodiversity hotspot and also provides numerous recreational opportunities. The monument began its journey to federal protection as a 7,000 acre donation to the University of California-Davis by the Homestake Mining Company. A partnership of university people, the state Fish & Wildlife department, landowners and the BLM formed the Blue-Ridge-Berryessa Natural Area Partnership and soon acquired 60,000 more acres. the idea of protecting a corridor of land from the edge of San Francisco to the Pacific Northwest forests took hold as the Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Conservation Area. Repugnant opposition in Congress killed that idea, so the national monument route had to be taken to protect this important wild land corridor of the inner California Coast Range.

Congressional backlash against the President's use of the Antiquities Act authority continues. Last week the House approved an admendment to the Interior Department's spending bill that would block the use of federal money to implement the desination of national monuments in 17 counties across the west. GOP leaders pulled the bill the following day, so the fate of the small-minded effort block designations remains undecided.

Monday, July 13, 2015

3rd Mass Cloral Bleaching

Figures released to the Guardian by NOAA show that about 12% of the world's coral reefs have suffered bleaching in the last year. Perhaps as much as 12,000 sq km of coral may be lost forever. Bleaching occurs when coral polyps eject their symbiotic algae partners due to increased ocean temperatures. Corals can only tolerate a narrow range of temperatures. If water temperatures warm by just 1℃ for more than week the fatal ejection of photosynthesizing algae begins. The algae color the white calciferous coral skeletons. Global bleaching events have been recorded twice before in 1998 and 2010. The 1998 event wrought major devastation when a massive El Niño set a chain of events that killed between 16-19% of the world's coral reefs. Before these events bleaching of coral reefs has not occurred in thousands of years. The events represent a major change in the environmental conditions of Earth's tropical oceans. During the 1998 bleaching event Australia's Great Barrier Reef recorded the highest sea temperatures ever*.

Currently, "the Blob", a mass of warmer ocean water is meandering across the northern Pacific, returning to reef areas only now recovering from the last destruction. This mass of hot water is thought to be generated by global warming. Research into bleaching shows that while corals can recover from mild bleaching in a decade or more of regrowth, an extreme event kills coral reefs, and they are replaced by other organisms such as seaweed and algae. Such degradation occured in the Seychelles after the 1998 event. Global temperature has increased only 0.8℃. As the global temperature increases even more corals already stressed by higher water temperatures will recover more slowly if at all, increasing the percentage of dead coral reefs.

*I. McCalman, The Reef 2013, p.270

Friday, July 10, 2015

UNESCO Will Examine Plight of Monarch Butterflies

As Dow Chemical is set to introduce another habitat killing herbicide, UNESCO, which overseas the World Heritage site program said it will begin investigating the viability of Monarch butterflies that spend each winter in Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. For the first time UNESCO asked the United States and Canada to inform the world body on their actions to protect Monarchs. NRDC delivered 50,000 petitions to the World Heritage Committee asking that it take action to protect the butterflies. A 90% decline in butterfly numbers has taken place in the last 20 years due primarily to the abuse of the herbicide glyphosate that kills milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs lay their eggs. The decline in butterfly numbers should put the Monarch world heritage site on the "in danger" list, but first the Committee must go through a process that includes responses from the two countries to which the butterfly migrates. Conservationists know that the US is not doing enough to prevent the oversuse of herbicides in agriculture, meanwhile the international process grinds slowly forward.

'Toontime: Global Warming is No Joke

credit: Adam Zygus, Buffalo News
It is hardly be surprising that the Union of Concerned Scientists have collected a number of internal industry documents that show the fossil fuel industry has worked to mislead the public about the reality of climate change. As early as 1981, according to a former Exxon employee, the company began factoring climate change into decisions about new fossil fuel extractions. A full report can be view here.  James Hansen, a leading NASA climate scientist, testified before Congress that science had confirmed industrial activity was causing global warming.  He was publicly vilified for his testimony, and his agency restricted his role in the debate in response to the fossil fuel industry's ire.  In 1995 an internal memo by a Mobil scientist warned that burning fossil fuels was causing climate change and that the relevant science "is well-established and cannot be denied".  That unequivocal conclusion did not stop the industry's leading trade group, American Petroleum Institute, from formulating a public relations campaign intended to sow doubt about the certainties of climate change in Congress and among Americans.  A 1998 strategy memo said that "victory will be achieved when average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate change science", and that recognition "becomes part of conventional wisdom".  The industry also supports the infamous right-wing legislation mill known as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)  This organization has been key to influencing politicians, providing misinformation about climate change, and generating legislation to roll back alternative energy programs.  Exxon-Mobil funded leading climate change denier Dr. Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon who worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and was involved in a research project entitled, "Understanding Solar Variability and Climate Change:  Signals from Temperature Records of the United States"  Dr. Soon sought to confirm and emphasize a noted correlation between solar radiation variances and temperature change in comparison to atmospheric CO₂ levels.  Because of the industries active and well-funded campaign of disinformation, similar to the one conducted by the tobacco industry to deny the connection between smoking and lung cancer, action on reducing the amount of fossil fuel burning has been seriously delayed and curtailed.  There is still no comprehensive US policy to address the existential threat of climate change.  This chart shows the devastating results:

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Creature Feature: Free At Last!

Watch as this exploitable natural resource jumps for joy after compassionate humans freed her from certain, slow drowning.  This young female humpback in the Sea of Cortez got entangled in fishing net that weighed her down to the point of exhaustion.  Twenty-one million people viewed this video. What do they think about sentient beings now?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

California Sea Lions Next Target

sea lions at Astoria, OR; credit: L.Topinka
Federal agents have already started killing cormorants on Sand Island in a misguided effort to save endangered salmon, the highly prized prey of humans. {25.06.15} It will not be long before they turn their attention again to California sea lions that have returned to the northwest coast in greater numbers than before. US Person wrote about sea lions preying on salmon at the base of Bonneville Dam. A federal court allowed a limited translocation and euthanasia of the protected pinniped to take place {07.04.07;24.04.08} So far 85 sea lions have been killed and another 15 sent to captivity. Due to legal protection under the Marine Mammal Act, the west coast sea lion population has increased dramatically to about 300,000, and because food sources elsewhere are depleted they are congregating at the first barrier across the Columbia River where hunting salmon is easy. Humans are scratching their heads when it comes to conflicts between protected species. They do not have to think to deeply to know that the erratic population spikes between prey and predator are symptomatic of a degraded ecosystem that is out of balance because of man's interference.

Scientists say the collapse of the Southern California sardine fishery and a large area of warm ocean water, nicknamed "the Blob", has driven more sea lions than the habitual males north in search of food. They found it in the Columbia. This year biologists counted 2400 male sea lions at Astoria near the river's mouth, 1,000 more than last year. A smelt boom kept them fed through February and they lingered for the spring Chinook run. One investigation by a NOAA fisheries biologists suggests that sea lions eat as many as 25% of the salmon migrating up the Columbia to the Bonnneville barrier. Other scientists say they eat one in 25 salmon. Either way the evidence is circumstantial and there are plenty of reasons for declining salmon numbers beside hungry sea lions. Salmon must swim through polluted water in brownfields. Invasive fish species like bass and walleye feed on juvenile salmon and human predation is intense; native tribes have a recognized stake in salmon harvesting for human consumption.

There lies the rub. The US government spends $500 million a year to increase salmon spawning. Fishermen--commercial, sport and native-- are complaining constantly about the competition from sea lions. Conservationists say more killing is not the answer. It is much harder and more costly to restore a riverine system than kill a few sea lions or comorants. So far native tribes have resorted to only hazing offending sea lions, but they want more authority to kill "problem" sea lions say spokespersons standing amid the roar of the biggest salmon killer of all: Bonneville Dam. Fundamentally, this is a philosophical debate: either wildlife as sentient beings have a moral right to existence or they are only a resource to be exploited by man.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Greece Votes for Democracy!

Update:  Greek banks will be closed for another two days because the ECB has refused to extend any more lines of credit beyond the bare minimum to keep them from failing, about 89€bn, but not enough to satisfy nervous depositors.  The struggle between European capitalists and Greek socialists is become more defined, now that the Greek people have convincingly backed their elected representatives.  Capitalists in Europe lead by the Germans are pressing the Greek government to come up with a financial repayment plan that according to them re-establishes Greek credibility.  Translated, that means more austerity measures that drastically cut public outlays.  The elected socialists lead by Alexis Tsipras want restructuring of the Greek debt to make it more affordable to repay.  That translates into an eventual "haircut"--a reduction in the expected interest rate--for Greek bond owners.  So far that is out of bounds for the troika--the country's  international creditors and the German central bank.

Germany's hardline towards Greece may not be going over with its major euro partner, France.  Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande met in Paris to discuss the latest crisis besetting the unified currency.  Both said they respected the result of the Sunday referendum.  For his part Prime Minister Tsipras removed his combative finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, and replaced him with an Oxford educated economist Euclid Tsakalotos.  Tsakalotos told Sinn Feinn supporters in March that the Greek bailouts were "more about northern banks than southern peoples".  He also quoted FDR's famous line about fearing fear when the President took on Wall Street and its oligopolists in the midst of the Greatest Depression.  According to Tsakalotos Greece has already made the biggest fiscal shift per capita of any nation since the 2008 Panic. Still greedy capitalists want still more corporatists reforms labeled "austerity" that would only serve to shrink the Greek economy further.  Greece has lost a quarter of its GDP and one-third of its people face severe poverty.  A solution must transcend ideological differences and be based on compromises demanded by Greece's rapidly deteriorating economy and geopolitical realities.  Greece's forced exit from the euro zone would creat havoc in financial markets, force a rebirth of the drachma, and perhaps force it into the waiting arms of the Putin.  Nobody, including the Greeks, likes a bully.

{05.07.15}Forget the corporate party line about Greece--how a profligate public sector sector drove Greece into the poor house--the truth is not going to be told by a media owned by corporate plutocrats.  The truth is the banksters were more than willing to shovel debt onto Greece's balance sheet and get well paid for doing so.  The plutocrats shoved Greece over the cliff of fiscal stability so they could feast on the remains of the state.  What happened to Greece is not unlike what happens to a popular restaurant or the corner bakery when it is taken over by the Mafia, only a larger scale.

Greece got hammered by the Great Financial Panic of 2008 brought to you by the scam artists on Wall Street packaging mortgage backed securities that were essentially worthless.  These criminals were aided and abetted by the rating agencies, S&P, Fitch, Moody's who gave top ratings to junk.  Everybody was making money and the poison spread world-wide because "the system" is global.  Greece's insolvent domestic banks got more $30bn from the Greek taxpayers to bailout the hardcore corporatists now demanding their rents (interest) from Greece.

The banksters in turn forced the government to guarantee their debts and substitute taxpayers for private investors who made a bee-line to the exits.  To emphasize who was in control the international financial cartel forced the Greek prime minister to resign when he refused to drink the cool-aide of a second massive bailout.  He was replaced by one of their own, the Vice-President of the ECB (European Central Bank)  They also upped the "vig" in 2009 by devaluing Greek bonds which made the yield on Greek debt even more expensive, which in turn made more difficult for the government to refinance existing bonds.  When the yield on Greek bonds hit 50%, parliament was forced to agree to the second, even larger bailout. Just when you think you are out, they force you back in!

Banksters had their best year ever stripping Greece of her assets in 2011 because the debt deals required the government to sell assets as a condition of the loans.  Think of Mafia boss Hyman Roth carving up Cuba's action among his cronies.  The plutocrats call it "austerity" giving their unpatriotic dismembering a cloak of moral rectitude. Pensions have been cut in half and sales taxes, the most regressive, have risen more than 20%. All of this to pay the bloodsuckers their money.

Here's the bottom line on this post:  the plutocrats never counted on a democratic socialist government coming to power that would lead the people in just saying no to the crooks in the final crunch. Greeks are finished voting in   as of now, and they are rejecting the latest glass of cool-aide by 61% with 80% of the vote counted. Greeks may suffer more turmoil and deprivation in the months to come, but they will do it with their dignity and their democracy in tact.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Army Engineers Insist on Killing 11,000 Cormorants

Update:  A federal judge refused to stop the slaughter of 10,000 or more comorants living on a artificial island in the Columbia River in May.  He turned down a request from four plaintiffs including the Audubon Society for a preliminary injuntion to prevent the killing of comorants nesting on Sand Island.  The Army Corps of Engineers sees the cull as a solution to the problem of declining numbers of spawning salmon returning to the Columbia River basin.  NOT. The judge took comfort in the fact that only the first year of killing in a four year cull will not result in a species-wide impact.  As of June 11th the killers have shot 125 birds and destroyed 1700 nests.  As usual the federal government is trying to keep their unpopular, lethal activities hidden from the public by shooting birds on their nests at night and releasing a minimum amount of information about the cull.  Government agents waited until a Sunday on Memorial Day weekend to begin their dirty work.  US Person would be ashamed too, if he was ordered to shoot comorants tending their young in the dead of night.
{03.04.15}It is the same unclear thinking that caused an officer in Vietnam to claim, "we had to destroy the village in order to save it". In this case the Army Corps of Engineers wants to kill 11,000 double crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) that nest on an island in the Columbia River estuary. Their offense is they eat too many salmon to please fishermen. Originally the Corps wanted to exterminate all 18,000 birds, but that proposal was too drastic even for the Corps. Now the plan is to kill only eleven thousand and use non-lethal tactics to reduce the number of breeding pairs from about 13,000 to 5600 on East Sand Island. The Army believes the cormorants consume an average of 11 million juvenile salmon each year. A commercial valuable fish, the Columbia River salmon and steelhead runs have been in decline for years despite expensive recovery efforts. The cormorant population is not doing well in its range except for the colony on East Sand. The 62 acre spit is man-made from dredging spoils. It is a nesting site for another bird that eats juvenile salmon: the Caspian tern. The tern colony, one of the largest on the west coast, was moved by the Corps to East Sand from another artificial island farther upstream. So it seems that this perceived problem is mostly man-made. The same can be said for shooting sea lions and seals that eat adult salmon near the first of several man-made barriers across the Columbia, the Bonneville Dam.

The Portland Audubon Society has promised to go to court to obtain an injunction against the proposed cull. The organization thinks the action is too drastic and not the underlying cause of declining salmon population. Habitat loss is driving the decline in salmon numbers and the proposed cull is 15% if the double-crested cormorant population west of the Rocky Mountains. The cormorants are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which will require the Corps to get several permits before it can "take" eleven thousand seabirds birds doing what comes naturally--eating fish and feeding their young. The fact is that shore birds along the west coast are generally not thriving. Some observers think this phenomenon is caused by less food in an ocean that is becoming increasingly sterile. The kill plan is drawing a lot of public attention; the Corps received 152,000 comments on the draft EIS. The final plan is open for public comment until March 16th. There is a lesson here: seeking a scapegoat does not solve a systemic problem--man's mismanagement of an important riverine ecosystem. Tell the Corps.

Friday, July 03, 2015

'Toontime: Evolver & the Yoga Nerds

credit: Mike Lester
Wackydoodle axes: Wha' y'al gonna due when there ain't no minorities no'mor?
Of course Wacky, it will be on to the first alphabet person to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! The combinations are endless, so it keeps them from facing reality. And you know how much they hate dealing with reality.

credit: Chip Bok
BC Idonwanna sez: Buffalo Soldier speak with forked brain!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Australia Listens to Outrage Over Barrier Reef Dumping

credit: WWF
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world were mobilized to protect one of Earth's most beautiful living treasures, the Great Barrier Reef. {14.05.15} WWF's call on world leaders to protect the reef has resulted in Australia's promise to prioritize the reef's health over development. That promise should result in a full ban on dumping dredging soils within protected areas in a matter of months. UNESCO said it will monitor Australia's government behavior in delivering "effective and sustained protection" of the reef from industrialization and pollution. Australia must report its progress in protecting the reef in 18 months. UNESCO's world heritage committee emphasised in its recent review that long-term threats such as water pollution and climate warming remain and will require action.