Friday, April 29, 2016

COTW: Not Bad for a Pet Rock!

Gold, constantly trashed by stock shills and despite frequent stock market goosing by the central bank, has outperformed stocks (represented by the S&P 500) since 1967:

Here is a simple truth: owning gold does not generate enormous revenue for finance institutions like stock trading does. Fewer than 1% of investors own gold according to financial blog Zero Hedge. Want an investment tip? Buy gold before it gets too expensive.

'Toontime: The Plutocracy Wins, Again

credit: Michael Ramirez, Business Investors Daily
Yes, my friends the GOP, bless its capitalist soul, is stuck with 'the Donald' as its presidential nominee. After his sweep of the latest round of primaries, he has earned the right to call himself "presumptive" and his opponents "pathetic". A floor fight at the convention intending to deny him the crown will be disastrous for the Repugnants, alienating 'Donald' supporters who will vote for the almost as conservative 'Crooked Hillary' or stay home in retaliation. The polls show neither presumptive nominee is popular, so 'Merica once again will be the loser. Run, Bernie run!

credit: J.D. Crowe, Alabama Media Group

Thursday, April 28, 2016

New Zealand Breeds More Kakapos

New Zealand researchers are over the moon about the record number of Kakapo chicks hatched this year.  Thirty-seven have survived so far making a record season in more than twenty years of conservation.  The Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is New Zealand's rare, endemic parrot.  Because it cannot fly, the ground dwelling, nocturnal parrot succumbed to introduced predators, human hunters and loss of old growth forests where it lives. Once found all over the two main islands the world's heaviest parrot numbers about 125 is now protected on a few predator-free islets.  They disappeared from the North Island in 1840.  At one point they were thought to be extinct, but a male and female were found on Stewart Island in the 70's. They reached their lowest number of 18 in 1977.

Rangers use technology to keep track of the remaining birds, record which parrots are mating and brooding behavior.  All known kakapo have names too.  Their data is transmitted by satellite to kakapo conservation headquarters.  Talk about being watched!  The hope is that the birds will increase to sufficient number that they can be left to their own devises in the wild.  The intense conservation efforts include genome sequencing of every known kakapo, artificial insemination and supplementary feeding to increase productivity.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

San Francisco Goes Solar

More: According to the respected environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity, ten states are blocking the deployment of solar power on a large scale to replace fossil fuel power generation. Most of them are sunny states with a potential to generate 35% of rooftop solar power in the US but only have 3% of the total capacity installed. These states definitely receive F's for failure: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia. Is it merely coincidence that most of these are southern, politically conservative states? NOT.

Solar power has inexplicably gotten caught up in 'Merica's on-going culture wars along with public restrooms. Alternative energy sources, despite the existential threat of global warming, are still identified by sections of the country as 'hippie' nonsense. Something for Californians to play with, but not for serious people bent on making a living. Too bad for US. The fact is resistance to free solar energy is building in boardrooms too. Of the states with net metering legislation in place, half have encountered political opposition intended to weaken or replace the laws that allow consumers to sell back excess energy production to the corporate owned grid.

{25.04.16}The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted new rules last week requiring all new buildings under ten stories to be equipped with solar panels. The rule will allow the city to reach its goal of 100% renewable energy use by 2020. Two other California cities, Lancaster and Sebastopol, have adopted similar legislation, but San Francisco is the first metropolis to take such action. The rule builds on state law requiring 15% of new roof space to be exposed to sunlight to allow future installation of solar panels.

A report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says that if all available rooftops were fitted with solar panels, the United States could generate 40% of its annual energy consumption or about 1,181gW of power. The three year study employed LIDAR and GPS to map 128 US cities down to the square meter. Using computer simulation researchers estimated the amount of power that could be generated on identified rooftop space and extrapolated those numbers into a national estimate. Surprisingly two northeast cities ranked high in solar energy capability. Concord, New Hampshire rated 72% of its needs could be met with solar energy while Buffalo, New York rated 68%.  Mission Viejo, CA topped the list of cites with 88% potential renewable energy supply.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

30 Year Anniversary of Chernobyl

Thirty years ago a nuclear accident occurred during experimental operation of nuclear power unit four at Chernobyl, Ukraine.  The ensuing meltdown of an entire generating plant and the release of huge amounts of radiation into the atmosphere (400 more times the amount released over Hiroshima) have left a poisonous legacy that continues to haunt the continent of Europe.   The 2600 square kilometer exclusion zone established after the disaster will be unfit for human habitation for the next 20,000 years should humanity manage to avoid its own annihilation for that long. Thirty years after the explosion milk produced at the border of the exclusion zone contains ten times the acceptable level of radioactive elements according to testing conducted by AP.

a band of feral Przewalski horses
Like human survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, animals and plants exhibit varying abilities to resist the effects of irradiation. Mammals exposed at Chernobyl exhibit eye cataracts and have smaller brains while many birds suffer malformed sperm. In the most radioactive areas about 40% of birds are completely sterile. Tumors of various types are also prevalent in plants and animals in areas receiving the heaviest fallout. All major groups of animals studied show declines in population and serious genetic damage. But not all species are affected similarly. Wolves seem to be unaffected by radiation levels, and there is a well documented increase in the number of game animals such as elk, boar and brown bear in less exposed areas of the ecosystem abandoned by man. There is controversy in the scientific community over the health status of animals reoccupying the zone. There is no denying, however, the Chernobyl disaster wreaked havoc on a pine forest ecosystem*. A thousand acres of the Red Forest perished and the land around the destroyed reactor turned into a desolate, toxic moonscape. Four square miles of topsoil was scraped off by heavy machinery and buried as contaminated waste.

Currently there are more than 400 nuclear power plants in operation around the world, and despite adverse economics 165 more are planned or ordered. The legacy of Chernobyl should be that these plants pose a present threat to Earth's well-being and consequently to humanity. US Person is proud to have participated in citizen opposition to this ill-advised method of power generation. The unlimited promise of the atom was touted for three decades after WWII by mega-corporations like GE, Westinghouse and Brown & Root, but the 'too cheap to meter' electricity generated by these ticking time bombs has, after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima proved atomic power to be too risky to operate. Yet the captured NRC is in the process of re-licensing every US nuke in operation (99) for a life span of 60 years, two decades beyond original design capacity.  It is no mystery why the nuclear power industry cannot buy private insurance for its business.

*Not to mention the havoc visited on the human population of the region. According to a 2001 conference in Kiev on the subject of Chernobyl and its aftermath, the Soviet Union mobilized 800,000 young men from all over the nation to put out the radioactive fire and entomb the plant.  Already, one-third of the "liquidators" are dead, but these figures have never been published. Of the registered Ukrainian liquidators, 94% are ill. A press release from Ukraine's embassy in Paris in 2005 acknowledged 2,646,106 Ukrainians were victims of the Chernobyl disaster.  One third of these were children.

Friday, April 22, 2016

'Toontime: Finishing the Race

a young socialist, Bernie Sanders
The mass media hacks and party controllers want Bernie to give up.  His loss in the New York primary was expected, but Bernie Sanders has never been an insider in the Democratic Party.  He came to politics by way of Vermont's Liberty Union Party and only gave up those credentials when he concluded that third-party participation is a dead-end in 'Merica's political duopoly.  Simply put he cannot quit the race because he now has a responsibility to represent the approximately 20% of the electorate who want a federal government focused on social justice, not corporate profits. Unfortunately there are a lot more 'Mericans that are afraid to say so. Kuznet's economic analysis was tainted by Cold War propaganda: a rising tide lifts some boats much, much more than others.  Or As Marx artfully and perhaps correctly put it, "What the bourgeoisie, above all, produce are their own gravediggers."
credit: Jeff Danziger

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Criminal Charges in Flint Water Crisis

The Flint Michigan water crisis produced its first criminal charges Wednesday against state and city officials who handled the city's switch from Detroit water to the Flint River.  A sharp increase in the acidity of the municipal water supply increased the rate of corrosion in the city's antiquated lead pipe distribution system causing some residents to suffer from lead poisoning.  Officials sought to minimize the public health hazard of lead contamination and even distorted water test results.  The charges brought by the state's attorney general against two state water district officials and one city utilities manager included felony official misconduct for misleading the EPA and evidence tampering.  The attorney general felt compelled to claim the state's criminal justice system was not broken when announcing the charges against the relatively low-level "career bureaucrats", and that these charges were not the last in an ongoing investigation.  The Republican governor has received a great deal of criticism for the crisis including calls from Democratic presidential candidates to resign.  A review panel appointed by the governor lay most of the blame for the scandal on state officials.  The report said the governor's office staff adopted a "whack-a-mole" approach to dealing with persistent negative reports about the problem.  It also added that Flint's lead contamination was an example of environmental injustice in the which the poor are disproportionately impacted by pollution.  The governor has pledged to drink Flint municipal water for a month.  He did not say whether his stunt would be recorded.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Justice Denied?

US Person posted previously about a New York police officer that killed an unarmed black man in the stairwell of a public housing unit in Brooklyn in 2014. Former officer Peter Liang was apparently unnerved by the dark surroundings when he fired a shot that ricocheted off a wall striking Akai Gurley in the chest, killing him. Gurley was walking with his girlfriend a floor below the cop. Liang was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and faced fifteen years in prison, but a New York Supreme Court Justice, Danny Chun, on Tuesday reduced his conviction to criminally negligent homicide and sentenced him to serve 800 hours of community service for the felony. He found prosecutors did not prove that Liang acted in conscious disregard of Gurley's presence in the confined space of the stairwell. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers argued the case was not about police brutality and that Liang should not be scapegoated for excessive force used by other New York police officers. The sentencing drew street protests from activists on both sides of the case.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fracking Politics

The controversy over fracking or the hydraulic recovery of 'tight' oil and gas from shale formations like the one that underlies upstate New York has reached the Democratic primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The New York primary is tomorrow, and the candidates have exchanged sharp words over the state's ban on fracking{17.12.14}. According to an environmental policy research group, in just ten years the fracking boom has released 5.3 billion pounds of potent greenhouse gas, methane, into the atmosphere.{17.04.14} The number of fracking wells has increased by 55,000 during that time, producing at least 14 billion gallons of wastewater. On average a fracking well uses 3 million gallons of water. Hillary Clinton's camp sees natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to wean America off fossil fuel dependence. No surprise there since many of her biggest financial "bundlers" are lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry. As Secretary of State she sold shale oil exploitation to other countries. Senator Sanders has refused campaign contributions from the the industry and supports "the keep it in the ground" legislation introduced in Congress. He has called for a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

see Gasland, the movie
Not only is fracking polluting the air with huge amounts of greenhouse gas, but underground wastewater injection is causing seismic tremors in Oklahoma at a record rate {04.01.16} and polluting water supplies from Pennsylvania to West Virginia.  Care to drink some firewater, New York?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Toontime: The Return of the Czar

credit: Michael Ramirez, Investors Business Daily
Wackydoodle sez:  I hear it comes with power steering too!

The latest close encounter between United States' forces and Russia took place in the Baltic Sea this week off the coast of Kaliningrad, a Russian oblast. Video shows Su24M fighter-bombers buzzing a Navy destroyer, USS Donald Cook, at very low altitude. The supersonic, all-weather, variable-wing "Fencer-Ds" (NATO designation) were apparently unarmed. An Su-24 was shot down by Turkish F-16s during Russia's aerial intervention in the Syrian civil war. The Americans described the incident of hot-dog flying as "simulated attack runs" while the Russian's minimized it as routine practice. The fact is the Cook was only 43 miles from a Russian naval base, and is armed with Tomahawk and ASROC missile systems. This ship was subjected to similar low-level runs as it cruised the Black Sea in 2014. Its home port is Rota, Spain as part of Destroyer Squadron 60. How would the USAF respond if a Russian destroyer appeared off Pensacola, Florida? Somebody could get hurt out there.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Humans Gave Neanderthals Herpes

Among other tropical diseases, humans brought herpes (herpes simplex 2 virus) to Neanderthals living in Eurasia when they migrated northward from Africa.  Geneticists at Cambridge University speculate that the answer to the planet's oldest 'who dunit'--what killed the Neanderthals--may lie in the spread of diseases for which our hominid cousins had no immunity.  Heliobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers, is another human germ brought to Eurasia by humans.  The bacteria infected humans in Africa 116,000 to 88,000 years ago and arrived in Europe 52,000 years ago. Genetic evidence shows the two species co-existed and interbred for thousands of years before Neanderthals eventually died out.  About 2-5% of the modern European genome consists of Neanderthal DNA.

There is growing scientific consensus that Homo neanderthalensis was out-competed by modern humans and the disease theory fits that scenario.  Weakened by disease, individual bands of Neanderthals whose gene pool was already shrinking due to geographic isolation could not have competed successfully with their more immune neighbors despite growing evidence they were as intelligent as the recent arrivals from Africa. Stone tools indicating an adept user have been found associated with Neanderthal remains as have bone tools.  A building 26 feet wide created about 44,000 years ago from mammoth bones has been unearthed by researchers in France.  They may have adorned themselves with jewelry made from animal parts and engaged in art.  More genetic evidence indicates Neanderthals possessed the genetic code that allows humans to talk even though advanced mammals communicate effectively without talking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Zika Hits US

The Zika virus outbreak that began in Brazil and is threatening the summer Olympic Games in Rio has reached Puerto Rico with 117 confirmed cases.  The disease is alarming the health officials at the Center for Disease Control.  At a White House press conference this week a public health doctor said the disease is "scarier than initially thought" and could have a greater impact on the US. Doctors writing in medical journal said the virus could have "explosive pandemic potential".  There are 346 confirmed cases of the disease in the US;  all are associated with travel.  Researchers now think the mosquito-transmitted virus may be responsible for a range of birth defects besides microcephaly.

credit: BBC
The vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti, thrives in human built environments.  It lays it eggs in small amounts of stagnate water which are plentiful in urban centers. Large centers like Rio and Singapore have big problems with spread of the insect.  Only the female bites humans to obtain a high-protein blood meal, and transmits the disease virus through infected blood. This species also spreads yellow fever, chikungunya, and dengue fever.  They are indolent flyers but great hitch-hikers, sipping only a small amount of blood from each human victim to avoid being swatted.  Despite its limitations the insect has spread around the world.  A cousin of Aedes aeqypti which is primarily a tropical species, is Aedes albopictus which inhabits temperate zones including the southeastern United States.  It transmits chikungunya, but it not known if it is capable of transmitting zika too.

Eradication campaigns in the Americas were successful in eliminating the vector mosquito by 1962 in eighteen countries, but pesticide resistance and more dense human populations have led to its rebounding now.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Alberta Tar Sands Spring Leaks

Canadian regulators have quietly released a report blaming an operator for
uncontrolled leaks in the heart of Alberta's tar sand deposits.  Regulators say that the company, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., injected too much steam underground attempting to extract ever deeper deposits of bitumen. The mistakes coupled with complex local geology caused the crude to bubble to the surface through faults and fissures instead of up recovery wells. About 80% of remaining deposits are deep underground and require enhanced recovery methods utilizing steam injection to gather. The government report highlights the risks of using high pressure steam injection to release the bitumen from these deep deposits.

One of the four leaks discovered in 2013 proved to be deadly to wildlife. Viscous crude leaked to the surface poisoning a small lake.  At least two beavers, 37 birds, 87 frogs and 22 small mammals were killed, covered in black goo. Dozens of more animals were rescued and cleaned. The company had to drain the natural pond. Despite spill remediation, crude continues to leak out of small fissures which according to the company, "are too small to measure". An estimated 6,600 barrels of bitumen have escaped to poison the environment to date.

While the company investigation blamed well failures, the Alberta regulators disagreed with that conclusion. Their report primarily blamed the effect of the company's high-pressure steam injection on the local geology that caused cracks to open up allowing bitumen to flow upwards wherever it could. Alberta Energy Regulator took three years to conduct its investigation at the company's Primrose facility. Its report was published last month. The company was warned once before in 2009 about using too much pressure. Then the Regulator issued new rules on allowable steam volume at Primrose. More rules have been issued this time including a ban on steam injection within 1,000 meters of an existing leak. The facility is one of six that uses cyclic steam stimulation, three are in various stages of development; all are owned by different companies.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The End of Socialism?

Here is a startling statistic: among young Americans, socialism is viewed more favorably as an economic system than capitalism. Capitalism contains inherent contradictions that eventually will destroy it. Relentless reduction of labor costs, commodification of social goods, and overproduction are just three examples of these.  To paraphrase Engels, capitalism does not resolve its inconsistencies, it just moves them around. Watch this video from The Empire Files with Abby Martin and get the very short version of Marxism from Prof. Richard Wolff of UMass, in order to "democratize the enterprise":

Friday, April 08, 2016

Montana Judge Helps Wolverines

Wolverines (Gulo gulo luscus) are cryptic, solitary animals living at high altitude and dependent on snow pack for their dens.  Consequently, they have become trapped in the debate over how climate change is affecting snowfall amounts. {06.02.13}  Their numbers are declining--only about 300 remain in the lower forty-eight--but the Fish & Wildlife Service refused to extend them threatened status under the Endangered Species Act in 2014.  A Montana federal district judge said Monday in his lengthy opinion vacating the agency's decision that it was arbitrary and capricious. He noted the enormous political pressure by western states (Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) and the fossil fuel industry on the agency to deny the wolverine protected status.  Such a decision could have put entire watersheds out of bounds to resource exploitation.

Judge Dan Christensen ordered the agency to reconsider based on science.  The agency's director Dan Ashe maintains that is exactly what his agency used in reaching its decision.  He says it was presented with conflicting evidence of the effects of climate change on the wolverine, the largest member of the weasel family.  Five scientific studies, according to wildlife advocates, concluded that there is a significant connection between wolverine decline and climate change, but the agency chose to ignore them.  A former biologist for the Forest Service characterized the agency treatment of the studies and the scientists who authored them as "disparaging".  Jeff Copeland said the science is clear, "wolverines do not reproduce in the absence of snow."

Wolverines raise their cubs in dens dug into deep snow at tree line, a limited ecological niche.  They stay there until the snow begins melting in May.  As snow season shortens due to warmer temperatures, wolverines have been unable to adapt to changing conditions.  Wolverines are also sensitive to high altitude intrusions by man such as trappers and snowmobilers.  Some snow mobile groups oppose protections for the animal fearing large areas of already fragmented back country will be closed off to their activities.  As a predator and scavenger, the wolverine roams large areas of high altitude terrain in search of food, traveling as much as twenty-five miles in a day.

The mountain devil as it is sometimes known is a fierce creature, able to fend off larger predators despite its compact size. Adult males weigh up to about 40 pounds  Wolverine has been known to kill bull moose. It's luxurious fur is highly prized for its waterproof and insulating characteristics.  Naturalist Ernest Seton said of the wolverine, it is "a personality of unmeasured force, courage and achievement."  It deserves protection from man's degradation of the planet.

'Toontime: The Worm Has Turned

credit: Steve Sack, Star Tribune

Trump lost big in Wisconsin (48-35%), evidence that the NOT-Trump coalition is gaining momentum. Whether he can avoid stepping in the wrong place--such as his comments on abortion--and maintain a delegate lead going into the convention is questionable since his main talent seems to be spontaneous quips placed in the lowest common denominator.  And by the way, Bernie also won!  On to New York with some of the savviest voters in the nation.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Madam Secretary: Who's Bought Off?

GE's CEO weighed in on the 'who's qualified' debate erupted in the Democratic primaries. No surprise he sides with "Madam Secretary". What that dubious endorsement means in plain English is that Clinton is the only Democratic candidate 'we [the plutocrats] are willing to allow'. So it is actually crunch time: is this a government by the people, for the people, or a corporatocracy of the CEOs for the 1%? You decide.

One of the criticisms leveled at Senator Bernie Sanders is that his programs are nothing more than 'pie in the sky' since as President he will not be able to fund his socialist agenda. Here are a few statistics to dispute that allegation. According to Good Jobs First, a national policy center that reviews grants, loans and other subsidies distributed by the federal government since 2000, $68 billion in subsides was given to corporate America. Two thirds of that went to large, multi-national corporations like GE, Ford, and General Motors. Two hundred ninety-eight of these corporations received subsidies of $60 million or more!¹ If corporate America, which Hillary Clinton so ably represents, just paid their fair share of taxes again, this nation could afford to pay for single-payer health care just like other developed nations do, and have money left over to subsidize higher education.

The deal corporations have cut for themselves is sweet indeed. In return for a few jobs, they demand exorbitant tax incentives from localities and states to locate their businesses. If there demands are not met, they go elsewhere, often to low-wage countries. The state of Washington paid Boeing tax incentives worth $8.7 billion to keep the company's production facilities at home. The deal makes Boeing the number one recipient for state and local subsides². All this labor extortion contributes mightily to their bottom lines, which is their only real concern. Walmart, the epitome of exploiting a low-wage labor force, has no fewer than 22 shell companies in Luxembourg, an infamous tax heaven. Since 2011 it has transferred $45 billion in assets to those companies while paying Luxembourg less than one percent on profits of $1.3 billion from 2010 to 2013³. Meanwhile low-wage Walmart workers are subsidized by US taxpayers to the tune of $6 billion a year in public nutrition, health care, and housing assistance⁴. Why pay benefits and a living wage when you can influence politicians to pay for workers' needs?

A final statistic that explains why economics has become so skewed in favor of the corporate owners, the 1%. Each of the largest corporations doing business here retains upwards of a hundred lobbyists in Washington. This profit-dedicated pressure group spends more than thirty dollars for every dollar unions and public interest groups spend on social goods like environmental protection, workers' rights, health care and education⁵. The deplorable situation is why America boasts the world's most expensive fighter plane (F-35) that does not work⁶, and gives four times the amount of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry than to renewable energy⁷. Therefore Ms. Secretary, the relevant question is: who's bought off?⁸

1. P. Mattera & K.Tarczynska, Good Jobs First, June 2013
2. M. Baker, St. Louis Post Dispatch, 02.04.14; J. Brunner, Seattle Times, 07.20.15; N. Chokshi, Washington Post, 03.03.15
3. D. Fulton, Common Dreams, 06.17.15
4. C. O'Connor, Forbes, 04.15.14
5. L. Drutman, Atlantic, 04.20.15
6. EU Times, 07.10.15. In a mock battle over the Pacific in January 2015, the F-35 lost to the older, more maneuverable F-16 despite it carrying two drop tanks and the F-35 carrying no weapons. The F-35 was intended to defeat fourth generation jets with its superior technology. Yet its automatic 25mm cannon jams, and its diagnostic software totaling 5 million lines of code gives false positives 80% of the time.
7. D. Carrington & H. Davies, The Guardian, 05.12.15
8. President Zelaya's ouster has connections to the Clintons, Inc. understandably ignored by the corporate mass media. The UK's Guardian did however, cover the story in English. Two of the coup's top advisors have close ties to Madam Secretary. Lanny Davis, a lobbyist and personal lawyer to Bill Clinton campaigned for Hillary.  The other, Robert Ratcliff, has deep roots in the Clinton camp. The Honduran coup leader, General Romeo Vasquez, was trained at CIA's infamous School of the Americas, disparagingly referred to as 'School of the Assassins'. M. Weisbrot, The Guardian, 07.16.09. After being kicked out of Panama by Omar Torrijos (who died in a plane crash), the school relocated to Ft. Benning, Georgia and renamed. President Torrijos had negotiated the return of the Panama Canal with President Jimmy Carter.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Bundy's Cows Still Trampling Critical Habitat

Cliven Bundy is in custody but his cows are still loose on public lands designated as a conservation area for threatened desert tortoises back in 1998.  BLM started rounding up Bundy's cattle two years ago.  The job is not finished and the agency said it has no plans to revisit the Gold Butte area of southern Nevada.  One Nevada official said rounding up the nearly feral cows is expensive and dangerous work calling them "nasty and smart"; somewhat similar to their owner whom the Justice Department described as "lawless and violent". The cows are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for meager food in arid terrain.  Yet the resilient Brahman breed survives in the harsh desert conditions [photo above].

The livestock was ordered off the desert land because cattle grazing is inconsistent with preserving the desert tortoise. (photo: Gopherus agassizii) US Fish & Wildlife determined the land around Gold Butte is critical habitat for the tortoise. Cows trample eggs and burrows increasing tortoise mortality. They grow slowly and have low reproduction rates while the cows  denude sensitive soils increasing erosion and noxious weed infestations.   Bundy has grazed his cows without a permit since 1993.  Multiple federal judges have ordered the cows removed, but Bundy and his sons have issued threats against contractors hired to corral the beasts.  Bundy's past-due fees are estimated to be more than $1 million.  If Bundy does not pay, BLM could obtain permission from the state's brand inspector to sell the cattle worth an estimated $800,000.  The BLM forfeited a $400,00 matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation for a restoration project to benefit the southwest willow flycatcher because the presence of Bundy's cattle thwarted the project.  Its time for the BLM to finish the job and put an end to Bundy's animal abuse.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Sanders' Team Coverts Nevada Loss into Virtual Tie

Taking advantage of some complicated county convention rules, the Sanders campaign garnered more votes and more delegates to turn a 20 to 15 delegate loss in the Nevada caucuses into an 18 to 17 virtual tie.  The conventions took place on Saturday.  Sanders' supporters flooded the convention in Clark County which includes Las Vegas where Clinton counted on unionized workers to provide her with the margin of victory on February 20th.  The result could change again after the Nevada state convention next month.

Sanders currently leads in the opinion polls by 2 percentage points in Wisconsin that votes tomorrow.  He needs to win there and in New York to make his challenge to Clinton's presumptive anointing plausible.  Thanks to the election of a Repugnant Governor and Repugnant judges on the 7th Circuit federal bench, Wisconsin has one of the strictest voter identification laws on the books and it is in effect for the April 5th vote.  An estimated 300,000 residents who do not have a state issued ID card could be denied access to the polls. The new rules impact minorities and students who usually rely on their student cards to vote, but which are no longer recognized by the state. Voter impersonation, the claimed justification for the new rules, is virtually non existent crime in the state.

According to AP Sanders trails Clinton in pledged delegates, 980 to 1,243.  It will be interesting to see if the party establishment changes its mind about Clinton if Sanders comes into the national convention with a slim lead in pledged delegates.  Will democracy prevail?  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 01, 2016

'Toontime: My

The Current Occupant presided over a nuclear proliferation conference this week without the presence of the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world (Russia) at the table.  What credibility the guy has remaining as leader of the "Empire"  is beyond the appreciation of US PersonSee Footnote 44. 
credit: Michael Ramirez
Wackydoodle axes: Is it time for another medal ceremony?

Bats Beat Miners

The US Forest Service installed 'bat gates' over a disused mine in Lake Tahoe National Forest bats had taken over for their habitat.  Miners sued the federal government for the action as an illegal "taking" since the gates put up to protect the bats also impeded the miners.

The Forest Service recognizes bats as important pollinators and pest control agents.  Consequently, on the advice of biologists the Service erected barriers in the mine shaft to protect the public's safety and allow the bats free access in 2010. Bats are under threat from disease, habitat destruction and pollution. {26.05.11, America's Bats Are Dying}  The miners had filed a mining claim covering the Seymour Quartz mine that was active in the 1950s.  Gold is often associated with quartz deposits in the Sierras; a higher price for gold makes some inactive mines worth working again.   Litigation ensued to remove the gates or compensate the miners who claimed the gates interfered with their claim activities. Removable vertical and horizontal bars prevented modern mining equipment from being used in the mine, rendering it useless according to the miners who represented themselves.  They started in the US District Court in Sacramento, but their claim was dismissed in 2013.  Eventually the lawsuit ended up in the US Claims Court in the District of Columbia.  There, Judge Kaplan issued an opinion on Tuesday saying the miners were still free to exercise their mining claim rights in ways that do not disturb a surface resource, i.e. the bats, so there was no illegal taking of property by the federal government.  Bats 1, Miners 0.