Friday, July 21, 2017

'Toontime: Good Riddance to Rubbish

The Repugnant effort to do away with a poor substitute for socialized medicine, the Affordable Care Act, fell apart this week when it became clear to the Washington hacks that the 'reform' was a bitter pill the public would not swallow.  Moderate senators from three red states stood in the way of a simple majority needed to pass the bill.  Senate Majority Leader McConnell promises to bring a repeal without a substitute measure to a vote, but that effort will fail too.  Depriving over twenty million 'Mericans of the only health care they got is not a popular political act no matter how you spin it.  The 'pardoner in chief' will spend billions for aircraft carriers, but not a dime for the peoples' health. Nemo judex in causa sua*.

credit: Nate Beeler
BC Idonwanna sez: Begin to stink like dead buffalo!
*  A buried legal memo by Kenneth Star, the Clinton special persecutor, rejects the widely held opinion that a sitting President is immune from criminal prosecution.  The New York Times obtained the memo from the National Archives through a Freedom of Information Request.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

COTW: State & Local Taxes Bite the Poor

This chart from the Washington Post shows that the poorer you are, the more state and local taxes take a larger share of your income:

People at the top end of income brackets pay more of their taxes to the federal government than to state and local jurisdictions.  Politicians like Trump who argue for more tax cuts for the wealthy conveniently point to the federal tax burden while ignoring the overall impact of all taxes.  When federal, state and local taxes are considered, the structure is far from progressive.   So when someone argues about the 47% who do not pay taxes, show them this chart, which demonstrates that the relative tax burden is not much different for the fortieth percentile up to the stratospheric 1%

Seattle Votes to Tax the Rich

Seattle has a history of progressive action.  Cementing its reputation in the present, socialists on Seattle's city council succeeded by unanimous vote in passing a tax on the wealthy to pay for social services last week.  The law provides for a 2.25% on individuals who have incomes over $250,000 and married couples whose income exceeds $500,000.  The new tax is expected to raise $175 million for social programs such as affordable housing, transit and education.  The passage came despite warnings of economic repercussions from resident billionaires.  Social activists at work since the Occupy movement to introduce fairness into the tax structure were particularly pleased with the city council's action.  A group known as Social Action took credit for making a vote against the proposal politically untenable.  It raised a record half million dollars in contributions campaigning on an explicit "tax the rich" demand.  The organization also campaigned to rescind a regressive sales tax, but lost that battle.  A right wing organization, Freedom Foundation, has filed a lawsuit claiming the new tax is illegal because it violates a state law forbidding cities from taxing net income.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Oregon Legislature Restores Funding for Killers

The federal Wildlife Services agency is part of the Department of Agriculture, but it gets a great deal of funding from states.  Readers of this space know {02.11.16} that the obscure agency is responsible for killing a wild variety of wildlife species deemed to be pests by agribusiness.  It is notorious for the use of indiscriminate methods of lethal control such as cyanide bombs, one of which killed a pet dog and seriously injured a child in Idaho. Governor Brown urged cutting funds for the killing agency. Ignoring the Democratic governor's budget priorities, two Democratic, part-time legislators, co-chairs of a subcommittee with jurisdiction over natural resource issues, restored funding by $1 million. So, in Oregon the agency will be able to continue killing wildlife and perhaps your dog too at taxpayers expense   

The Monarch Highway?

Monarch butterflies are in steep decline across North America.  The causes of the butterfly's decline are a litany of the usual suspects.  Habitat loss is considered the primary cause because the beautiful orange and black traveler is tied by biology to the milkweed. It only lays its eggs on the plant; unfortunately man considers milkweed a pest species and has done his worst to eradicate it using an assortment of toxic chemicals like glyphosate.  The once vast expanse of diverse prairie in the nation's heartland has been permanently replaced by monocultures of corn and soybean.  Locations for successful breeding are becoming fewer and far between. In 1996 an estimated one billion insects made the long migration from Mexico north to Canada.  In the winter of 2013-14 only 33 million made the trip.  Experts are concerned that a continued drop in numbers could put the species at risk of extinction by a single severe storm.

One idea that has been suggested to help the struggling butterfly is intriguing, but far from a certain solution.  I-35 bisects the country, north to south, in the middle of the Monarch's central flight path.  One of the biggest parcels of public land is highway borders, but this vacant land has been inhospitable to most insect species since it is regularly cut to the non-native roots and doused with herbicides.  A plan to convert the land along the 1400 mile length of I-35 to pollinator-friendly habitat would cost between $2.8 to $5 million according to a paper put out by Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch, a conservation organization.  There is no current research that supports the success of such a large undertaking.  Critics point out that encouraging insects to inhabit the verges of a busy interstate highway will inevitably cause more mortality due to vehicle collisions.  In the first specific study of Monarch habitat along highways, University of Minnesota researchers found 60% of studied roadside swatches contained milkweed that feeds Monarch caterpillars, but the number of larvae and caterpillars found there were lower than in prime habitat areas such as parks and backyards that contain many sources of nectar and pollen.  One speculative reason for the lower fertility in roadside oases is higher levels of pollution and even noise.

Nevertheless, the concept has gotten the blessing of the Federal Highway Administration and six Midwestern states.  The project even has its own official logo. [left]  A Monarch Highway is an uplifting idea as well as a challenging one.   If it succeeds in attracting Monarchs and other beneficial insects, it will be naturally beautiful and beneficial, but it is not an entire solution.  The indiscriminate use of herbicides and insistence on monocultures as means of maximizing profit has to give way to more sustainable forms of agriculture.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Flooding HIts Midwest Hard

Several communities in the Midwest have experienced catastrophic flooding in recent days. Findlay, Ohio was inundated when the nearby river crested at 16.5 feet, the fifth highest on record. Eight people recreating in a normally placid creek lost their lives when a flash flood in Arizona sent a torrent of muddy water and debris down the slot canyon, catching them off guard. A wild fire had denuded hills of vegetation increasing the run off volume into the creek. These incidents corroborate what climate scientists have been predicting for some time now. Global warming will drastically increase the number and intensity of deluges. A study published in Nature Climate Change says that storms expected to occur once a season could occur five times a season and produce seventy percent more rain. Heavy precipitation has increased by 71% in the northeast according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment. Ninety communities, mostly in Louisiana and Maryland face chronic inundation. Land subsidence plays a role in their predicament, but rising sea levels also contribute to the problem. Researchers think that sea levels could rise by six and half feet by the end of the century, which could chronically flood about 670 communities including 60% of all East and Gulf coast settlements. One of those settlements, Miami Beach is beginning $4-500 million flood prevention project in an effort to keep the city mostly dry as sea levels rise. City officials are planning for a three feet rise by mid-century.

Friday, July 14, 2017

"Toontime: Deep Do-do

The latest twist of the worm: Donald Jr. got caught trying to help his dear old dad get elected by engaging his Russian contacts to dig up dirt † on Hillary. What he got was dirty. The Russians never delivered, and his father suffers another debasement in an already debased regime. It may be "a big nothing burger", as described by Trump's chief of staff, but the story adds to the blows against his prestige of office. Trump's public relations problems are making it very difficult for his colleagues on the Hill, who are trying to save their so-called health care reform legislation from oblivion. Defections among Repugnant senators are growing as public trust continues to erode even in red states.

US Person has personal familiarity with the corporate right wing's favorite political weapon. His costly experience has rendered him not anti-capitalist, but anti-fascist and pro-social populist. Label him if you must, only be accurate, please!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Washington Announces New Wolf Killing Protocol

courtesy: Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
After the state mercilessly exterminated the Profanity Peak pack last year, outraged Washington residents demanded the state revise its wolf kill policy.  The extermination lasted eleven weeks and cost Washington state taxpayers $135,000. {30.09.16} The new policy was not subjected to public comment before being finalized.  In contrast Oregon, which is also developing a wolf management policy, held public hearings on the issue; one such hearing was held in Portland were the urban-rural divide over wolf recovery was on display.  US Person attended the hearing and submitted written comments in support of full wolf recovery in Oregon.   Opinions supporting the wolf were strongly represented by numerous wildlife advocates who want to see extermination used only as a last resort to control wolf-human conflicts.

Washington now requires the implementation of two non-lethal methods to control livestock depredations before the Department of Fish & Wildlife will issue a kill order.  However, there are no time limits on how long the methods have to be used.  Three livestock kills or injury have to take place in thirty days, or four in ten months, but the depredations need not be confirmed before an order is issued.  Conservationists call the new policy flawed since it was developed without public notice or comment.  The Department does recognize in its policy statement that it has a trust responsibility to manage wolves for all residents of the Washington, not just those with an affected economic interest.  The Profanity Pack was exterminated at the insistence of a local rancher, who four years earlier succeeded in having another pack, the Wedge, exterminated too.  That owner refused to use non-lethal deterrents to wolf depredations.  Grey wolves have been federally de-listed in the eastern third of Washington state. 

COTW: The Fragmentation of the Middle East

Iraq's US backed government is preparing to announce the recapture of Mosul from ISIS jihadists as its forces clean out the remaining pockets of resistance in a city that has been turned into rubble by fierce fighting. But what Iraq's central government will be left once the second city is back under its nominal control, is not at all clear. The civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS in Iraq after the departure of the US military has produced a fragmentation of the region into areas of control by sectarian and ethnic groups, such as the Kurds (YPG and KRG), who have their own national ambitions inconsistent with the current state boundaries. This map shows the state of play:

The fact is that sectarianism has taken the place of nationhood in the Middle East. The Sunnis are nominally led by Saudi Arabia; the Shiites are nominally led by Iran. These two blocs are in conflict in Syria. Both Syrian and Iraq were created by the European Powers after World War I. What France and Britain drew on the map had little to do with ethnic and sectarian realities. Those realities have now come to dominate the region. ISIS has lost some territory it previously held, but those losses have benefited the groups occupying the land, not the national governments. Historically, power has shifted between the two Islamic sects about every 500 years. Currently, it appears the Shiites are in the ascendancy and the Sunni bloc in disrepair, having lost Iraq to a Shiite regime, and leadership of the Sunni rebellion in Syria challenged by ISIS jihadists.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rwanda Brings Back Lions

credit: M. Poole
The genocide that struck Rwanda in the 1994 was a human tragedy of millennial proportions. An estimated one million Tutsi died at the hands of blood-thirsty Hutu. Beyond the human suffering, wildlife also suffered from the slaughter. The last lions in in Akagera National Park were poisoned by herders when the genocide left the park unmanaged and unprotected. Conservationists at the NGO, African Parks, with the cooperation of the Rwandan government are relocating seven South African lions to Akagera after a fifteen year absence. Lions are in deep trouble in Africa due to human conflicts, habitat and prey loss and hunting. The latest research shows that Africa has lost 68% of its lions in the last fifty years. More effort will be needed to protect these iconic felines in the future. The relocation to Akagera is a hopeful start to rebuilding lion populations in Africa.

white bottom, black top
Akagera was the location of the unfortunate death of a Hungarian researcher, Kirsztián Gyöngyi, on June 7th.  He was killed by an eastern black rhino he helped relocate to the park.  Black rhino (Diceros bicornus michaeli) are notoriously volatile compared to the more docile white rhino [illustration left].  Prior to their reintroduction in May, black rhino had not been seen in Akagera since 2007; its population of about fifty were wiped out by poachers. Only an estimated 5,250 black rhino remain in the wild.  Gyöngyi's death reminds animal advocates that protecting wildlife takes unselfish dedication and courage. The ecologist who specialized in rhino habitat leaves behind a wife and young daughter.    

Saturday, July 08, 2017

'Toontime: Trumpery

credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer
Wackydoodle sez: I hear he uses finger extentions.
The Donald is off to Poland, once a member of the Warsaw Pact, now a recent addition to NATO on the European border of Russia, where he could not resist a reminder for his good buddy, Valdimir Putin, whom he is scheduled to meet at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany this weekend. Already hundreds of protestors have been injured in violent demonstrations there.. Trump's modus operandi is painfully clear to 'Merican taxpayers by now: the presidency has become a world-wide free advertisement for Trump's business empire, as well as subsidized golf vacations for its Chief Twit.
credit: Steve Sack, Star Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez: The Donald need diet!

Friday, July 07, 2017

Watts Bar 2 Shuts Down

The first new atomic energy plant of the 21st century, Watts Bar 2, operated by the TVA had to be shut down after only six months of operation.  Failing condenser parts caused the generating station to be taken off-line on March 23rd.  The plant remains shut.  TVA has yet to locate the condenser problem which is critical to plant operation since this component returns steam driving electrical turbines back to water.    Once again, the extreme complexity of nuclear power generation has flummoxed an overly optimistic owner-operator.  The last new nuclear power facility to enter service is the plant's twin unit, Watts Bar 1, that came on-line in 1996.

Watts Bar 2 holds the dubious distinction of the longest construction period in US nuclear power, a whopping 43 years!  The condenser component is part of the original design, so consequently it is also outdated technology as welll as broken.  Such a long delay in producing commercial electricity added greatly to the plant's capital cost.  Construction got underway with an estimate of about $400 million in 1972.  The plant's total cost is now estimated at $6.1 billion.  Such skyrocketing construction costs are endemic to the nuclear power industry, and are largely responsible for making new plant construction uneconomic, even for industry enthusiasts.

A faulty condenser in a conventional fossil-fueled plant is not as critical as one in a nuclear facility.  A coal plant could be run for months before a shut-down was needed to fix the problem.  No such luxury exits with a hair-trigger nuclear boiler.  An operating condenser is absolutely critical for cooling a reactor running at full power, which is what TVA hoped to do during this peak summer cooling season.  NOT.  Accompanying  their mechanical problems, plant managers have created a toxic work atmosphere that intimidates employees who might be willing to report regulatory violations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The NRC ordered TVA to improve the safety culture at Watts Bar.  But a consultant reported just three weeks ago that conditions haven’t improved. The report found that “mistrust permeates the [Watts Bar] organization,” Notwithstanding the chilling atmosphere, the NRC recorded 33 allegations against TVA in 2016, the highest in the country.  Quite a record: from 'too cheap to meter' to too expensive to generate in half a century.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

COTW: The Snail's Pace of Change

A reader might ask, why do national politics in the US seem so difficult to change? One reason is that incumbents, especially in the House of Representatives, have an enormous advantage over challengers.  In 2016 the entire House of 435 seats were up for election.  Of the 390 races in which incumbents ran for re-election, they won a staggering 96.4% of the contests. Democrats needed to win a net thirty seats to take over the House.  They won only a net 6. Yet, despite repeatedly voting for incumbents, 'Mericans hold Congress in very low regard with polls from various news sources averaging an approval rating of 14%. Apparently, Congress is another case of getting what you pay for. This chart shows the steadily increasing number of business people holding congressional office:
credit: Brookings Institute

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

DC Appeals Says Trump Circus "Arbitrary"

The influential federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the Trump attempt to delay implementation of the rules restricting methane gas leaks from oil and gas operations, "arbitrary and capricious" in a decision handed down Monday. Clean Air Council v. Scott Pruitt, U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, 17-1145.  Methane is a potent global warming gas that is leaked in huge amounts from the domestic drilling boom.  The case was brought by a coalition of environmental groups including NRDC and the Sierra Club.  They argued in court that the Pruitt EPA failed to follow the rules contained in the Clear Air Act of 1970.  The pro-exploitation administrator announced an implementation freeze earlier this month.  His decision was roundly criticized by scientists and environmentalists who think the rule is badly needed to protect the public's health.  Typically, Pruitt conceded that delaying implementation could have a adverse effect on children's health, but that consideration was outweighed by the implementation's effect on the industry's bottom line.
Trumps cut ribbon on DC hotel, credit: Getty Images

In related news a Department of Justice regulatory compliance official resigned Trump Circus' lack of ethics. Ms. Hui Chen wrote , "I am not willing nor able to compartmentalize my values as an professional, a citizen, and a human being,"  Welcome to the expensive club, Ms. Chen.

Friday, June 30, 2017

'Toontime: Squeezing US

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
When the CBO said that the Senate substitute health care bill would deprive 22 million more citizens of health care in its first decade, Repugnants dove for cover and canceled a scheduled Senate vote this week. About a half dozen Senators oppose the current bill, and the Repugnants need everyone to  overcome the Democrats.  The cat calls could be heard coast to coast. Then the CBO issued another report, saving the worst for last. The non-partisan agency predicts that by 2036, Medicaid funding will be 35% lower than it is now, meaning millions more poor Americans will have to go without health care in the future.  Eleven million people have gained health insurance through the expansion of eligibility under the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).  Nineteen states that have adopted expanded coverage will be forced to roll back coverage for those citizens who are now receiving their health care through Medicaid.  One estimate is that states which want to maintain expanded Medicaid coverage will have to spend an extra $43 billion to replace declining federal contributions.  That is not going to happen.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

COTW: The Market Knows No Fear

Wall Street is profiting from the third longest bull market in recorded history at 96 months.  Stock prices have not been this high since 1999 and 1929, just prior to the largest crashes in Wall Street. One would think that the world economy must be booming, yet look at this well-respected leading indicator of economic activity, the Baltic Dry Index:

So is the Baltic Dry index wrong, trading at over 90% below its highs? US Person does not think so because what is driving the bull to new heights of excess has little to do with economic health, but more with the effect of a lot of capital with no where else to go. Stock prices are trading at 29 times earnings. There are few bargains to be had, but the bond market is even more expensive with yields of 2% or less.  Here are some factors pushing Wall Street further into blissful delirium:
  • corporations are not using their 'yuge profits to invest in business expansion, a risky business, but buying their own stock, a much safer way to obtain return on their idle funds, thereby keeping demand for equities high.  Firms in the SP 500 index have purchased $536.4 billion worth of their own shares;
  • central banks of some nations, such as Switzerland and Japan, buy equities as well as bonds, and the US market is still considered a safe haven for their sovereign investments;
  • central banks are printing an enormous amount of money, even though the Fed has stopped increasing the US money supply ("quantitative easing"), at the rate of $200 billion a month. Increasing the money supply is no longer an emergency program to stave off depression, but a regular part of economic policy;
  • baby boomers, scrambling to provide for their retirements, are fully invested in the market through their savings programs at work, providing another source of demand for equities.
So what we have once again in the span of one decade is another market bubble. Market bubbles burst when stocks become too ridiculously expensive that even die-hard bulls get out in anticipation of a "correction". The market does not reflect economic reality anymore, but the free flow of capital around the globe in search of financial profit. This chart is much more related to the reality of a financialized economy where the "real" unemployment rate is above 20%:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Yellowstone Grizzly Loses Its Legal Protection

Species deemed to be recovered are eligible to be removed from the Endangered Species Act's legal protection.  De-listing, as it is known,  is supposed to be an indication of conservation success in bringing a species back from the edge of extinction, but it is a mixed bag of success.  The Yellowstone grizzly which has enjoyed federal protection for decades will now face the not-so-tender treatment of state governments under the sway of trophy hunters who foot the bill of state wildlife management.  The grizzly population in the Yellowstone region has indisputably rebounded after forty-two years of federal protection despite numerous previous attempts to remove the bear.  Yellowstone bears number 717, up from 300 in 1975.  The Interior Department announced its delisting decision on June 22nd.

Members of the Cheyenne, Shoshone, Blackfeet and Northern Arapaho tribes have vowed to fight to keep brother bear protected and live in peaceful co-existence. They signed an historic treaty last October, only the third international agreement of its kind in one hundred fifty years.  Native Americans believe the delisting not only threatens the iconic bear but also will allow access to historic areas for energy development.  Tribal authorities say the federal government did not consult them in the decision to remove the bears' federal legal protections as required by an executive order formulated during the Clinton administration.  The executive order provides no legal grounds for litigation, however.

Conservationists are concerned that Yellowstone states are already planning to allow hunting of grizzlies in their jurisdictions base on their expressed objections to the federal Conservation Strategy that governs how the species is to be treated in the future.  States want to reduce the minimum allowable number of bears from 647 to between 600 and 747 under the so-called and oft cited "North American model" of wildlife management.  Basically that model is pro-exploitation of a species provided it is not exploited into oblivion.  Federal biologists have established 500 has the minimum sustainable population of Yellowstone bears.  The fact is that the great bear has been extirpated from 98% of its former range in Canada and the United States.  So it is still vulnerable to extinction despite the success in protecting a few isolated populations [see map below]

The grizzly is in conflict with a hostile species in a dwindling area of suitable habitat.  An example of the hatred it must confront: a Jackson Hole outfitter announced that as soon as grizzlies are delisted, he intends to target Bear 399, the Yellowstone ecosystem’s most famous and beloved grizzly. First collared in 2001, Bear 399 and her several litters of cubs have frequented Grand Teton’s roadsides for more than a decade, delighting sightseers. The outfitter told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he was motivated by a hatred for, “the federal government, bear-loving environmentalists and the Endangered Species Act.” A fairly revealing comment that should motivate the bear lovers among us to continue giving the grizzly the assistance of human laws to survive in the 21st century.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

COTW: Their Bad

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
Terrifying is the right word. The Senate version of Repugnant health insurance is even worse than the House version, if that is possible. It will eventually eliminate Medicaid altogether and eliminates the personal mandate to obtain health insurance.  Even that compromised incrementalist, Obama, posted that the repeal bill drafted in secret is a massive transfer of wealth disguised as healthcare that is fundamentally mean at its core.  Most of the tax cuts used to provide affordable health insurance benefit the wealthy.  Low-income Americans will pay higher premiums for bigger deductibles as a consequence.  Harvard researchers estimate 18,000 to 27,000 more deaths by 2026 as the result of the repeal of Obamacare.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Creature Feature: The Ladies in Charge

BBC produces some of the best wildlife features on Earth. Here is an intimate nighttime look at the courtship of the strangest of birds, the New Zealand brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli):

Thursday, June 22, 2017

COTW: The Gap Gets Bigger

According to Bernie Sanders, our friendly token socialist in Congress, the Senate's secret Obamacare repeal will transfer $200 billion more to the richest Americans. The sad fact is the Democrats are not offering a viable alternative to Trump's faux-populist fascism. The Democrats lost another House election in Georgia yesterday after spending a record amount to purchase a seat. A party official summed the loss up with a quip: "our brand is worse than Trump". So this chart will not improve under Trump's reign:

The key to passage of this "worst than expected" bill is the budget reconciliation process in the Senate. Repuglians need it to pass the repeal by a simple majority vote which they hold, otherwise Democrats could filibuster it and require a three-fifths majority for passage. Reconciliation depends upon a passing score made by the supposedly non-aligned Congressional Budget Office. That process is expected to be completed next week.

Monday, June 19, 2017

One Step Closer to War

A US fighter shot down a Syrian jet northwest of Raqqa on Sunday moving the superpowers one step closer to direct confrontation in the Middle East. The
Russian defense ministry issued a warning to the United States, saying any coalition aircraft east of the Euphrates would be treated as targets and tracked by surface to air missile units. Russia also suspended the direct communications channel set up under Obama's rule to prevent such confrontations. The US military did not use the channel prior to shooting down the Syrian Su-22 fighter-bomber [photo: Polish Air Force]  according to Russian officials, who accused the US of "deliberate failure to make good on its commitments". They also equated the attack with aiding the terrorists operating in Syria.

The US supports anti-government rebels that includes fighters aligned with ISIS. The Syrian jet dropped bombs near coalition forces fighting to dislodge ISIS from Raqqa when it was attacked by a F/A 18E Superhornet. A UN observer reports that the coalition's air offensive in support of Kurdish fighters is killing a "staggering" number of civilians. The independent monitoring group, Airwars, found the US coalition killed between 348 and 521 civilians in May alone, a rise of almost 20 per cent on the previous month. Reports from the front also say white phosphorus, an incendiary that burns on contact, is used by the US led coalition.  ISIS holds thousands of civilians hostage in its self-declared capital. Under a hail of artillery fire and air strikes Kurdish forces have captured outlying parts of the city. Fighting will intensify as they move towards the center.

This news created by his generals* must be welcome relief to the Current Occupant who is fighting to keep his administration from sinking beneath a deluge of political scandal related to his Russian Connection. Washington will be temporarily distracted out of its wits as the confrontation in Syria over the civil war reaches a dangerous flash point.

*It would not be the first time in American history that the Deep State created an incident in pursuit of its policies. See Chapter Four, JFK and the Unspeakable, for an account of the military coup against South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem. Kennedy had decided by October 1963 to remove American forces from Vietnam; he ordered the military to draw up the plans. But his withdrawal was thwarted when the bombing of a shrine in Hue killed many Buddhists. Buddhists claimed that Diem regime was responsible for the attack. The CIA under Allen Dulles had extensively infiltrated the Diem government at all levels. Political unrest in the country created by the incident made withdrawal politically unacceptable. The Deep State wanted to continue the fighting in South Vietnam and even expand it. Diem and his brother were assassinated by coup leaders after the US gave them the green light. After Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, President Johnson massively increased direct American involvement in Vietnam's war of liberation. The rest is history.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sioux Win in Federal Court

Natives standing up at Standing Rock to protect their rights to clean water, got a significant show of support from a federal district court judge.  Judge Boasberg recognized the Standing Rock tribe's interest in Lake Oahe from which it obtains its water supplies. The Lake was created from 56,000 acres of the Standing Rock Reservation and 104,420 acres of Cheyenne River Sioux trust lands.  Federal treaty law requires the tribes be consulted early in the development process which means in time for the tribes "to provide meaningful comments that may affect the decision".  That didn't happen in the case of the Dakota Access pipeline.  The Sioux found out about the development project by reading the local Bismark newspaper.  There will be more decisions and more litigation.  Its time for the local governments to adhere to their own rhetoric and obey the law of the land, and not treat water advocates like domestic jihadists.  If that means tolerating encampments on what used to be Indian land and ending criminal prosecutions of protestor exercising their supreme Constitutional rights, so be it.  The legal process needs time to work, not fire hoses.

COTW: Jeff Sessions Unplugged

credit: Plante, Tulsa World
Attorney General Jeff Session's testimony before the Senate committee investigating the Russian hack attack was a tour de force of evasion.  As political theater it was predictable and therefore boring. Washington kabuki has gone out of style as entertainment in 'Merica.  The latest significant development in the latest political scandal to wrack the country is that the Trumpster is officially under investigation by Special Counsel Mueller for obstruction of justice.  How could he not be and Washington still maintain its veil of "plausible deniability"*? Trump has all but admitted he attempted to block former FBI Director Comey's investigation of his Russian Connection by firing him.  Trump has broken a record of sorts: he has exceeded both Bill Clinton, and the master of deceit, Richard Nixon, in the least amount of time in office before being investigated for possible impeachable offenses.  More dirt will come.  Kudos, Donald, your shady business deals have saved the Republic!

*Officially enshrined as national policy of the warfare state in National Security Council Directive 10/2 issued June, 1948. President Eisenhower still said it best at the end of his tenure, though he did nothing about the problem, "In the counsels of government , we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.  We must never let the wight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."  US Person would only add that the eloquent warning issued by the Commander-in-Chief in 1961 is now a disastrous reality, and is attributable to what is more accurately labeled the military-corporate-financial complex.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Alarming Die-Off of Sea Creatures on West Coast

From California to Hawaii, the beaches are littered with dying sea creatures, and nobody knows why.  Hundreds of leopard sharks are found dead long the shores of San Francisco Bay, the largest die-off in six years.  Speculation is that the sharks are exposed to fungi in stagnant, shallow waters of the Bay's lagoons and develop brain infections causing to death. However other shark species such as mako and great white are also dying and the cause is not clear.  Unidentified microorganisms have caused multiple brain lesions.

In Southern California mass mortality is spreading to sea birds and marine mammals.  Experts blame domoic acid poisoning caused by algae blooms (Pseudo-nitzschia).  Fish contaminated with domoic acid, a neurotoxin, are eaten by birds and seals which causes seizures and death for those animals that consume them.  Normally Pseudo nitzschia does not produce toxic amounts of domoic acid, but if stressed by temperature changes or excessive carbon doxide in the water, they will begin to produce the neuro-toxin.  Ocean waters are now affected by global warming and acidification.  Observers also point to a massive sewage spill in Tijuana, Mexico as a contributing cause to the increased mortality of sea life in the region.

In Hawaii,millions of baby crustaceans are washing ashore dead, tinting the beaches of Mokuleia pink with their remains.  State officials say the mass die off is unusual but nothing to be alarmed about.  Millions of tiny tuna crabs are also turning the beaches red from San Diego to San Francisco.  Some observers of these signs are not so phlegmatic; they conclude that these extraordinary events are portents of a dying Pacific.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

They're Back!--Pebble Mine Threatens Salmon Again

Like a zombie in a B movie, the Pebble Mine disaster is back having survived a regulatory death at the hands of the Obama administration's EPA.  Trump's climate denier at the EPA, Scott Pruitt, struck a deal with mine project owner Northern Dynasty to scrap previously approved regulatory plans protecting Bristol Bay and its world's largest salmon run, allowing the company to reapply for the necessary federal clean water permits.  The agency announced it would settle Northern Dynasty's lawsuit for blocking the previous permit submissions.

Northern Dynasty plans large retaining ponds which would containing toxic mine wastes situated on top of an active earthquake zone, part of the "Ring of Fire" around the Pacific rim.  The mine site is at the headwaters of two major rivers flowing into the Bay.  Spills and seepage of toxic waste into the waters of Bristol Bay are a foregone conclusion. EPA Region 10 administrator Dennis McLerran, told reporters the agency had concluded that even a mine much smaller than the one currently envisioned by Pebble's sponsors would produce "almost unfathomable amounts of rock" which "posed significant risks to the fragile ecosystem" in Bristol Bay.  Sportsman and outdoor industry groups blasted the reversal of policy saying it is a "direct assault on our values".

Besides the bad press and negative public reaction*, the mine project is of dubious economic value.  The gold and copper deposits that are the object are dispersed.  Northern Dynasty would have to digest 99 pounds of rock for each pound of valuable mineral.  More than one company has walked away from exploiting the area on economic grounds alone.  Under the deal with Pruitt, the company has two and half years to refile for permits.  Pruitt has made good on his promise to support extraction industries by his policy actions since becoming EPA's administrator.

*The public has overwhelmingly rejected the Pebble Mine project. More than 65 percent of all Alaskans, 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents – including Native people – and 85 percent of commercial fishermen strongly oppose the Pebble mine.  Over 1.5 million people have submitted negative comments to EPA on the Pebble Mine.

Creature Feature: Elephants Learn Teamwork

This video clip from BBC Earth show Asia elephants learning, quickly, to use teamwork to obtain a food treat.  The experimental design is similar to one used to test the intelligence of chimpanzees, who also learn quickly how to depend on a teammate to reach food beyond the reach of a single individual.

Such empirical confirmation of the intelligence of elephants hopefully will help conservationists preserve the lives of a the remaining Asian elephants. They are under renewed attack from poachers who are now murdering them for their hides, not their tusks. More than 100 elephants have died since 2013 at the hands of poachers. In this year alone 20 elephants have been killed with poisoned darts in Myanmar. All were skinned or close to being skinned when there carcasses were discovered. Reportedly the hides are used for jewelry and potions. The slaughter extends to mothers and their calves. Pictures of the barbaric abuse are too horrific to be displayed.  US Person thinks humans are capable of emulating the elephant and use teamwork to put a sudden halt to this perverted horror.

elephant skin for sale at the Golden Rock market

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trump Quid Pro Quo Alleged in Dossier

The Russian Connection is now white-hot, as calls for the Trump's impeachment grow in intensity.  The furor is fueled by the Steele Dossier complied by former British MI6 operative Christopher Steele for an anti-Trump political action committee. The dossier alleges that then candidate Trump agreed to refrain from criticizing the 2014 Russian intervention in the Ukraine if Russia agreed to feed the hacked Hillary Clinton and DNC emails to Wikileaks.  A confidential source told Steele that Russia hacked the DNC and leaked the documents to Wikileaks with the full knowledge and support of senior members of Trump's campaign organization.  Two Trump campaign representatives succeeded in tabling a Republican platform plank to provide Ukraine with "defensive" lethal weapons to fight insurgents backed by the Kremlin.  Platform language was changed from providing "lethal defensive weapons" to "providing appropriate assistance" after Trump's people objected.

Initially Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Russia was tough and uncompromising.  But that tone changed after he hired Paul Manafort to be his campaign manager.  Manafort has business connections with the Kremlin, and he helped Viktor Yanukovitch, the Kremlin's choice, win the Ukraine presidency in 2010.  Records indicate that Manafort was slated to be paid $12.7 million for his performance.  The dossier details alleged offers by the Kremlin for sweetheart business deals that the candidate turned down.

The BBC reports that the dossier also contains compromising personal material about the President.  Supposedly he was filmed with a group of prostitutes in the presidential suite of Moscow's Ritz-Carlton hotel and also in St. Petersburg.  Apparently this "kompromat" prompted the CIA to launch its own counterintelligence task force to investigate the credibility of such claims in 2016*.  Penthouse magazine has offered a million for the hotel tape, if it exists.  Fake news or "polezni durak"?

*Beyond the sleaze is the possibility that Russians have a large amount of financial leverage over the Trump Organization.  In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. — the GOP nominee’s son and the VP for Development for The Trump Organization — told attendees at a real estate conference in New York City that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Americans need to know how much money has poured into The Trump Organization from Russia and from whom. Sergei Millian, the president of the U.S. Russian Chamber of Commerce and friend of Trump, claims in 2016 the figure is in the hundreds of millions.

COTW: Britain's Hung Parliament

Jeremy Corbyn can declare a Pyrrhic victory in Britain [chart above] since Tory Prime Minister Theresa May failed to achieve a mandate for her course to exit the EU in a snap general election. The loss of the Tories slim majority in Parliament indicates the depth of dissatisfaction with austerity policies among young voters. Two thirds of voters under twenty-four voted Labour. Half under thirty-four voted Labour. [see chart below, credit: Financial Times] Corbyn's party did not win an outright majority but pulled to within three points of the Tories' vote total. Many commentators are saying that the shocking outcome--once again the Murdoch dominated CMM got it totally wrong predicting a Tory landslide--leaves the Tory "Brixit" policy in ruins. It certainly gives EU negotiators more leverage over Britain's exit from the single market, if it ever materializes. Even the hardcore capitalist newspaper, Financial Times, has appealed to Jeremy Corbyn in its editorial pages to abandon a "hard exit" from the Union. How the British economy can successfully compete without the trade advantages of its natural European market is becoming increasing problematic. Estimates are that post-Brexit trade with the European Union may fall by 40 percent, and foreign investment by 20 percent.
the Queen addresses her subjects, Getty Images

May is attempting to cobble a working governing arrangement with the cranky Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, delaying the Queen's Speech to Parliament [photo]. The Liberal Party has already ruled out a coalition government with the Tories having been burned once before. Speculation is rife that a deal with the extreme Unionists--founded by Ulster fundamentalist Rev. Ian Paisley--will blow up in the Prime Minister's face, and a second general election will have to be called soon. Whether Corbyn can provide a real alternative to the Tory financial war machine remains to be determined given his constant capitulation to the neoliberal Blairites in his party. His opposition to driving out the right-wing MPs who sought his removal, agreeing to free votes on military action in Syria, the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons, and then incorporating these retreats into his own manifesto indicate his wiliness to accommodate the ruling plutocracy at the expense of workers.

The take-away lesson from the recent general elections: Anglo-Saxon nationalists on both sides of the Atlantic are caught in a game of pickle between the globalized ruling elites typified by the former Rothschild banker and newly elected French President Macron.

Friday, June 09, 2017

'Toontime: Up A Lazy River with Trump

Comey's testimony was a disaster for the Trump Circus.  It confirmed what the media has reported earlier: Comey was fired for investigating the Russian ConnectionUS Person previously wrote that an intelligence dossier prepared by a former British spy alleges that the Russians are in possession of financial information that is very damaging to Trump, perhaps creating fears in the US intelligence community that the President could be subjected to undue influence by his Russian contacts.   US investigators have since corroborated that some of the conversations described in the dossier actually took place based on top secret telephone intercepts.  Comey testified he could not talk about the dossier's contents in an "open setting"*  The White House spokesman has called CNN's reporting, "fake news"--not quite as disturbing as fake "twits".

credit:  Adam Zyglis
* Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked Comey about the dossier and the allegations contained within. “At the time of your departure from the FBI, was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?”  Comey answered, “Mr. Chairman, I don’t think that’s a question I can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigation."

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Puntang the Rhino Euthanized

first western specimen, W. Bell, 1793
One of the last three of Malaysia's Sumatran rhinos (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) Puntang, a female was euthanized early Sunday morning after treating veterinarians diagnosed her with terminal squamous cell cancer.  She was believed to be around twenty-five years old.  Puntang was captured in 2011 and lived out her life in Tabin Wildlife Reserve, a fenced sanctuary, with two other rhinos.  She underwent dental surgery in April after caretakers observed a large abscess thought to be due to dental infection in her jaw.  The surgery was successful, but the abscess remained. Puntang was euthanized to end her suffering.  She was in pain, unable to vocalize and could not breath through her left nostril. 

It was hoped she would contribute to the rapidly dwindling gene pool of her species, but like other hairy rhinos she was unable to breed in captivity. The live in small, isolated groups and have a very low birthrate which contributes the threat of extinction in the wild.  Puntang still produced eggs, so she might have been able to contribute to in vitro fertilization efforts, but her caretakers were unable to retrieve any oocytes.  Only 55 to 100 Sumatran rhinos are thought to be still alive; most live in Indonesia.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

US Leaves Trump Behind on Climate

Thanks to the pledges of eleven states including the world's fifth largest economy, California, and 246 cities, the United States will stay the course on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in spite of the trumped-up Trump.  Amazon, Apple and Target have also joined the movement towards a sustainable future.  Those commitments represent more than 40% of the US economy according to AP.  It is no surprise that most of these states have Democratic delegations.  Also not surprising is that the red states in the country's "fly-over zone" are fighting greenhouse reduction goals. [map] Undoing most of the nation's existing legislation to reduce global warming would take years of court battles.  Some experts think that if the United States simply moves on with existing programs, it will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 19% by 2025, which is close to the 25-28% reductions agreed to in the Paris accord.  So this is another "accomplishment" the Trumpster can take credit for: activating the American public to support reducing greenhouse gas for the world, and Pittsburgh for pity's sakeResist here.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Toontime: Poor, White and No Brains

credit: Kevin Siers
BC Idonwanna sez: The Russians grabbed Hillary too!

When someone explains to US Person why poor white people repeatedly vote against their own economic interests, then he will not have to post "rude" cartoons like this one anymore. Racism is too facile an answer, and blaming the Russians for a broken political system is simply silly, if not distracting. No one has explained how a few Russian hackers, probably acting on their own accord, managed to convince over 300 members of the Electoral College, who are supposed to know better, to vote for Trump. Were the leaked documents from the database of the Democratic Party that volatile (something on the order of LBJ ordered a hit on JFK) that an entire nation was swayed to vote against its presidential candidate? NOT.  The truth is the Democratic Party establishment fielded the wrong candidate--Hillary had huge negatives going into the election and the resignation of her sycophant DNC chair, Wasserman-Schultz, a bump in the road--and completely missed an inflection point of history.  Because like the Repugnants, they are a front for the plutocracy. It was the sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken who said, "democracy is the pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance." Real Americans, you betcha'!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

COTW: Life Without Paris?

They achieved the nearly impossible in Paris, after a decade or more of effort: delegates from 186 nations agreed to do something significant about global warming. That incredible accord among 186 sovereign nations will now be put into jeopardy by one misguided man: Donald Trump. This chart shows what he will throw away:

INDCs are the national contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the agreement.  They are intended for review every five years and ratcheted upward to achieve a livable climate that may avoid most of the catastrophic effects of unchecked emissions. Donald Trump says "NOT" to all of that, despite being advised by his closest team members, businesses, investors and national allies to abide by the agreement.

A reactionary cabal of conservative senators led by Mitch McConnell who represents coal mining interests in Kentucky are pursuing a radical course against global agreement in a naked, immoral and destructive pursuit of profit at the expense of the planet. These deceitful politicians, handmaidens of Mammon, repeatedly pointed out China as the stumbling block to US participation in a global agreement. They cannot do that anymore because China signed the Paris accord. Blaming China was simply a smoke screen for their own entrenched opposition to saving the planet from a dystopian future.  They would rather line their pockets and those of their military-industrial-financial complex masters than do something about the gravest threat the United States faces in the 21st century and beyond. What boggles US Person's mind more than the duplicity of politicians* is that a majority of 'Mericans swallowed the toxic cool-aide dispensed by Trump during his campaign under the nonsensical rubric of 'making America great again'. In just over 120 days in office he has not made America great, but a rogue outsider among the community of nations.

*The extent of DC politicians' perfidy is epitomized by this historic nugget from the depths of the Cold War. President Eisenhower's Democratic critics accused him of allowing a "bomber gap" with the Soviets to develop during the 1950's. Later, the alleged lapse in defense policy was modified to suit presidential candidate Senator John Kennedy's purposes into a "missile gap". What was the actual factual basis for all these deadly "gaps"? In 1955 the Russians put on their usual May Day parade of military assets. A squadron of strategic jet bombers flew over Red Square as part of the show. Since the Russians only had ten of these bombers, their flyers were directed to circle around Moscow and pass in review several times to give observers the impression of a much larger jet bomber force on display. Always ready to ignore reality if it advances their political agendas, American war mongers accused fiscally conservative Eisenhower, the commanding general of victory in Europe, of being soft on the commies! The fact was that at the time the United States' nuclear arsenal was both larger and more advanced than the Soviet Union's. America has been at war in Afghanistan for fifteen years at the cost of billions of dollars, not to mention thousands of American lives. It still cannot assure the safety of Kabul's streets. Does it really want to, or is perpetual war the object?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Great Barrier Reef 'Doomed'

bleaching at Orpheus Island, credit G. Torda
The experts admit: Australia's Great Barrier Reef cannot be saved.  Already half of the Reef has been killed by record warm water temperatures for the second year in a row.  A 2015 official report concerned how best to preserve the Reef, but that optimism is no more.  The latest aerial surveys show a bleaching event almost as severe as the 2016 record when two-thirds of the Reef experienced bleaching due to high water temperatures.  Only the southern third of the Reef has escaped widespread bleaching. Bleaching occurs when coral eject pigmented algae in order to survive.

El Nino contributed to the bleaching last year, but this year there is no El Niño effect and the bleaching is almost as bad.  Dr. James Kerry of James Cook University, who undertook the aerial surveys said, “It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016." There has already been four severe events in the last eighteen years--1998, 2002, 2016, and now 2017. The rise in water temperatures due to global warming will continue to bleach the Reef. A reef expert who has focused on water quality told the Guardian that the federal government's efforts to improve the Reef's water quality have also failed. The loss of one of Nature's great wonders would mean the loss of one million visitors to Queensland, and drain $1b from its economy.

Friday, May 26, 2017

'Toontime: The "A" List

credit: Steve Sack, Star Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez: Duterte no get memo!

Der Speigle has nailed it after the gaff-filled Trump trip to Europe and the Mid East designed to distract the 'Merican public from his mounting problems within the Beltway.  The German newspaper's conclusion: Trumpster is a danger to the Republic. Perhaps the Washington elite is finally waking up to that fact. The United States cannot afford more enemies at this point in its checkered history, and the arrogance of its 45th talking head is alienating allies and encouraging enemies.  Just ask the President of Montenegro! Sure it is a speck on the Balkan map, but Montenegro is a member state of the European Union and astride the immigration route to Europe from the Middle East.  It would be nice to have their cooperation.  Trump is not starring in a "reality" TV show, he is supposed to be guiding a great nation-state, and cooperatively, the western world.  After 120 days in office, he is failing in that job.  If this were "The Apprentice" he would be fired.  In the words of one journalist covering Trump, "Trump behaves not unlike a small child that bites and scratches to get the loving attention it wants". Crazy?  Look whose setting up a bunker in the White House.  "Bad, very bad" to quote the Trumpet.

Birds Struggle to Cope with Climate Change

Spring is arriving late in the west and early in the east by as much as a day each year for the past decade; spring begins with a natural event: leaf out of trees and plants.  That is not good news for migrating birds who follow a strict schedule for their stressful journeys.  A new study in Scientific Reports says that 9 of 48 species studied were unable to adjust their internal clocks to coincide with local photosynthesis ("green-up").  Climate change is predicted to drive hundreds of bird species to extinction and curtail the range of others.  Fortunately, the majority of species seem to be able to cope with the new climate imposed by man.

This chart from the study sums up some of the findings. Arrival is getting earlier and later, but not synchronous with green-up arriving earlier in the east and later in the west:

The blue line indicates when arrival and green-up are synchronous.  Black is a linear regression of the data points. The variance in the line slopes is statistically significant.  Each symbol represents a different ecosystem and species.  The chart shows that earlier arrivals are not keeping up with altered photo-periods.  In the words of the study, "arriving too early at breeding grounds can bring risk of freezing (due to cold temperatures) and hatching chicks before peak resource abundance, whereas arriving too late can mean fewer nest sites, fewer mates with successfully guarded territories, and declining resource abundance. As such, the loss of synchron[icity] between insect emergence and migrant bird arrival phenology [timing] can be accompanied by negative fitness consequences" which result in declining populations.  The species that are most negatively impacted by climate change are Yellow Cuckoos, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, and Indigo Buntings.  The scientists used data collected by "citizen scientists"--birdwatchers--posted to the website, eBird.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Scientists Make Progress for Devil

No, not Satan, but the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) which is currently threatened by an outbreak of a virus caused cancer that is transmissible. {19.05.12} Devil facial tumor disease is horribly disfiguring and the tumors grow so large as to prevent the animal from feeding.  The disease is nearly 100% fatal.  It was first detected in 1996 and has decimated populations since then, wiping out more than 80% of Tasmania's iconic marsupial. Last year researchers found that the Devil is developing resistance to the virus.  After extensive laboratory work using immunotherapy, they have successfully shrunk and eliminated small tumors.  Their work is reported in the journal Scientific Reports.  These results give hope for the development of a vaccine.  Efforts are now focused on improving the Devil's response to immunization according to Dr. Cesar Tovar of Menzies Institute for Medical Research.  The existence of a vaccine is good news for captive bred Devils, who can now only be successfully released to the wild after immunization.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Articles Are A'Comin'

Yes, folks, as US Person posted months ago, the Donald appears to be headed toward the same proceedings as 'Liar Bill'.  Democratic Congressman Al Green told the press that Articles of Impeachment are being drawn up.  Under the Constitution impeachment proceedings must originate in the House and be tried by the Senate.  Green also revealed that he is receiving racists threats, but he is undeterred in his efforts to introduce a bill of particulars into the House.  The word "impeachment" has been bandied about on the Hill frequently since the firing of FBI Director Comey and Trump's apparent efforts to derail the Russian Connection investigation were revealed.  Any effort to impeach the President for obstruction faces long odds against success since both legislative bodies are controlled by Repugnants.  It takes a two-thirds majority to win a conviction in the Senate.  Bill Clinton won that vote easily with all Democratic Senators voting to acquit him of perjury and obstruction.

Democrats are accusing the Trump Circus of directing federal agencies not to respond to routine requests for information from Democratic members.  This lack of cooperation is a departure from long standing practice of previous administrations from both sides.  Two hundred written requests by Democrats have gone unanswered since Trump took office.  “The fact that they just turn their back on [congressional] oversight is part of a deeper syndrome, which is no respect for separation of powers, no respect for how the Constitution set up our government. It’s going to hurt the country, and it’s going to hurt them,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday.  Trump's cruel and extreme budget has been declared a non-starter, even by his own caucus in the Senate.  Trump's public approval rating is already low and likely to fall even lower:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

COTW: Battery Boom

Close readers of this space know that US Person does not usually endorse products or companies.  The last products he did endorse were Nissan's Leaf and Chevrolet's Volt automobiles because the are proverbial steps in the right direction towards a sustainable, sun-driven economy. And he likes cars.

Visionary Elon Musk's Tesla Company has to be added to this short list with its electric car for the people, the Tesla Model 3.  Think of it as the 21st century's Model T.  Granted, it will not be as inexpensive in relative terms to Ford's mass produced breakthrough, but it will be cheaper than the luxury Model S and will still be on the cutting edge of electric transportation.  Interestingly, Tesla's cars will come with an optional solar cell roof that will enhance their range without struggling to find a still rare recharging station.  Electric cars first made their appearance at the turn of the 20th century, and might have captured the auto market from petrol driven cars except for the fact battery technology was primitive lead-acid which limited the auto's range and had a serious hazardous potential.

That is set to change with Tesla's gigafactory in the Nevada desert which will mass produce energy dense lithium-ion storage batteries.  This technology is essential to a successful transfer to non-fossil fuels and alternative energy supplying the grid.  All those gigawatts generated by wind, tide, and solar power have to be stored somewhere when environmental conditions are not favorable to power generation, but demand for energy is always current.  Tesla's visionary investment in advanced batteries got a comforting endorse from one of the leaders of Germany's technological establishment, AG Daimler. 

Chancellor Angela Merkle is scheduled to break ground today on a $543 million plant to make storage batteries for Daimler outside of Berlin. Given investment  in power storage by two dominant industries, the technology will drive battery prices down as it matures.  Experts estimate that by 2030 electric cars will be competitively priced with fossil fuel cars and a lot cleaner.  Plants are also planned for Poland, Sweden and Hungary and will cut the cost of lithium power packs by 43%.

Another exciting Tesla innovation is its solar home roof, a clever piece of materials engineering that uses glass tiles to transmit light energy to underlying solar panels without a significant loss of power.  These glass tiles can be made to resemble conventional tile, slate or asphalt, giving homeowners previously unavailable style options.  More importantly the tiles eliminate the need for unsightly frames to hold solar arrays.  The solar roofs look exactly like non-solar roofs and last longer while moving the homeowner closer to being their own utility company.  Look at this Bloomberg video for a preview of what is coming.  Yes, US Person has to say it, Green Kudos to Tesla, Inc.  There is a way if we choose to follow the sunlit path.