Friday, April 28, 2017

'Toontime: The Great Wall of Trump

credit: John Darkow
US Person cannot decide which is more frightening: voters believing a wall would actually succeed keeping out illegal immigrants, or that Mexico would pay for such an insultingly useless project. The very concept testifies to the extent of Trump supporters' ethnocentrism.   Perhaps this is the way the befuddled brain of the Trumpster perceives his wall folly:

credit: Wolverton
Wackydoodle axes: Can I git pupae with that?
Fortunately, Congress mustered enough spine, a precious commodity on Capitol Hill, to oppose the Trumpster.  He was forced to do another about-face on this issue, and decided to postpone the 'great wall' debate until September.  In the words of a Democratic member, "He folded like a cheap suit".  Then, on the other side of a two-headed coin, there is the Former Occupant being paid $400,000 for a 'speaking engagement', which in reality represents remuneration for heading off socialized medicine.  Classic!  At least the price of betrayal has gone up in two thousand years.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

COTW: Poverty rising

Repugnants continue to claim that a growing economy raises all boats.  This chart belies that ridiculous claim.  They constantly plug for tax relief for the rich and corporate. while poverty has surpassed levels seen in the 1950's, apparently their version of a 'golden age'.  The US poverty rate is one of the highest in the developed world.  Only Chile, Mexico and Israel have higher rates.  But the Trumpist, will build a wall and that will fix their wagon, won't he? Not!  Fortunately for him, white supremacists don't read much world history.  China already did that, and it didn't work there either. Just ask the Mongols.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Antifa Makes News in Stumptown

KKK parades in Portland
US Person thinks the strangest thing about Portland, OR, the city that pridesmake the grade, it harbors far-left anarchists as well as far right neo-nazis. At the same time, it is governed by conservative business interests that foster an intensely parochial attitude among the "mainstream" citizens. In fact Portland, despite its liberal facade has a history of white supremacists in power. In the twenties the KKK was a powerful influence in Oregon, and the city's mayor was a member as well as the chief of police. Portland is the whitest city in America. (72%+)Local traditions are regularly promoted to maintain the appearance of a close-knit, harmonious, progressive community. One of Stumptown's cherished icons is the Rose Festival and Parade. Residents flock to the parade route to mark out spaces on the sidewalks from which they can view the floats and marchers days in advance. Curiously, these exclusive claims to public property are for the most part respected by other spectators in a typically odd Portland manner. This year is different, however. The 11th annual Rose Parade was suddenly canceled in an unprecedented move by the 82nd Avenue Business Association sponsor because of the threat of violent confrontations between anti-fa activists and extreme right-wing elements within the county Republican Party.
itself on being "weird", is the political dichotomy that exists here.  Home to many young people struggling to

One group, Direct Action Coalition, created a Facebook page in which it promised to shut down the parade if the Multnomah Republican Party was allowed to participate, claiming known members of neo-nazi and anti-immigrant hate groups exist within the Multnomah Republican Party which it opposes . The Party has participated in three previous parades. The antifa group said on its page, "No Portland child will see a march in support of this fascist regime go unopposed." Predictably city politicians decried the threat of violence which prompted the cancellation. But Portland antifas are not alone in their protest. In several places around the country, anti-fascists are openly and sometimes violently confronting alleged fascists.  This is a trend to watch as the Trump regime marches steadily to the right.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Scientists Find $17.2 Billion Damage to Gulf

In the first attempt to actually quantify the environmental damage done by BP'sDeepwater Horizon disaster, scientists writing in the Science journal found $17.2 billion worth of damages to the Gulf of Mexico caused by the 2010 well blowout the spewed crude into the Gulf for 87 days before it was capped. An estimated 134 million gallons of crude spoiled the waters and coastline, killing an unknown number of birds, fish and marine mammals.  The figure is slightly less than the $20 billion settlement reached between BP and government authorities and approved by the court last year.  BP was found to be grossly negligent in its operations, engaged in willful misconduct, and mostly responsible for the largest spill disaster in US history (67%).
the spill from space, credit: NASA

The damage figure was arrived at by a team of researchers retained by NOAA who randomly surveyed a large sample of American adults that took three years to complete. Based on the survey, researchers found that the average household was willing to spend $153 to insure 100% spill-free operations in the future. That figure was extrapolated to reach the final figure of $17.2 billion. Researchers considered the individual contribution size to be "eye-opening", but an accurate indication of how valuable a clean environment is to Americans.

Friday, April 21, 2017

'Toontime: MOAB-in-Chief

When US Person was a junior-high punk he had the privilege of visiting Carnaby Street in London during the "swinging sixties".  It was an exciting time, full of psychedelic art, rock music and cultural change, especially in London.  One of his vivid memories of that visit, besides the gold-and-silver brocaded Neru jacket his mother lavished on him, was viewing the Beatles' animated feature, "Yellow Submarine".   A small mystery occurred when the "blue meanies" were portrayed in the film dropping bombs on everyone.*  What were the blue meanies supposed to represent?  Of course, that visual metaphor is no longer a conundrum:

credit: Trevor Irwin

Wackydoodle sez: His bomb is bigger than Li'll Un's!

*In the words of the Washington Post: "Since World War II, the United States has engaged in an almost unbroken chain of major and minor wars in distant and poorly understood countries. Yet for a meddlesome superpower that claims the democratic high ground, it can sometimes be shockingly incurious and self-absorbed. In the case of the bombing of North Korea, its people never really became conscious of a major war crime committed in their name." The Post article goes on to say: The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.  Blue meanies, indeed!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Conservationists Ask Giraffe Be Protected

credit: Giraffe Conservation Foundation
A coalition of five major conservation groups including NRDC and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the US Fish & Wildlife Service for protection of the giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.  Giraffe numbers have plummeted in recent years due to habitat fragmentation, and human predation.  Their petition notes that a significant portion of the giraffe's decline can be attributed to the importation of body parts and trophies into the United States--a minimum of 20,000 bone carvings alone were brought into the US between 2005 and 2016.  The agency has ninety days to determine if the petition contains substantial scientific or commercial basis for granting the requested determination.   The process for listing a species is a lengthy one that allows for public discussion of the issues involved.  Of the nine subspecies of giraffe, four are decreasing in number and four are increasing, but the overall trend, should present pressures persist, is downward.  In 1985 there were an estimated 150,000 giraffes in Africa, that number is down to 97,000 currently.

Monday, April 17, 2017

COTW: A Dream Denied

It used to be that the key to a prosperous future was a college education.  Not so much these days.  This chart shows the disturbing trend in the value of a college degree in the labor market:

In 1990, no so long ago, a typical graduate incurred debt equivalent to 28.6% of his annual earnings. In 2015 that figure shot up to 74.3%. By one calculation given the trends continue at the same rate, a graduate could end up with debt in excess of of their annual wage by 2023. Seven out of ten college students pay for their education with debt and one in four of those are in default according to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

Friday, April 14, 2017

'Toontime: The (Un)Friendly Skies

US Person had a personal experience with the bullying tactics of United Airlines, the poster-child of corporate arrogance.  If only his Impertinence could experience the same kind of treatment!  But that, only in just world.

credit: Steve Sack, Star Tribune
Wackydoodle sez: His balls are gold-plated, too!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

COTW: The Empire in One Chart

The United States spends more on its military than the next 7countries combined!  This chart shows why:

The US has approximately 800 bases overseas in 177 countries which costs it $100 billion a year to maintain.  Unarguably, the United States is a military empire the exceeds the scope of its historic Roman predecessor.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Noise May Cause Cetaceans to 'Loose Their Breath'

Air breathing cetaceans--dolphins and whales--are built for diving.  They have many physiological adaptations for storing oxygen and resisting the tremendous water pressure as they dive to depths of up to two miles.  But a new study has linked noise exposure and dive response in dolphins.  The findings published in the journal Experimental Biology indicate that a beaked whale, one of the deepest diving cetacean fleeing noise by an emergency dive may expend up to 30% more energy than in unstressed diving (calculated).  Test dolphins in a deep water aquarium expended twice as much physiologically performing escape dives.   Fish, birds and cetaceans all swim relatively slowly to conserve energy, but when faced with disturbingly loud man-made noise like sonar, cetaceans flee at high speed and that costs them a lot of energy and stored oxygen.

No one knows what causes mass standings like the one that killed more than one hundred pilot in New Zealand in February [photo credit: Getty Images], but disorientation and exhaustion caused by human noise is suspected as one reason.  A marine mammal expert with NRDC says anthropomorphic noise is a "death of a thousand cuts" for marine mammals because it degrades their foraging, interferes with breeding behavior, silences their own prodigious vocal activity, and drives them from their homes.  Ocean noise is becoming an increasingly serious environmental threat.  Scientists are now working on the link between human noise in the ocean and the morbidity of cetaceans.  Once this link has been proven to be scientific fact, legal steps can be taken to protect them from yet another form of human pollution of the natural world.
one hundred pilot whales on Fairwell Spit

Saturday, April 08, 2017

'Toontime: Trump Emits His Own Gas

credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer
Wackydoodle sez: Hold yer nose and y'all won't notice! 
After three days of internal debate the Donald decided to launch some cruise missiles directly against the murderous Assad regime by striking a Syrian airbase [photo below] where the gas attacks against Khan Sheikhoun are thought to have initiated. Direct action against Assad was debated with Obama government for six years and the final answer was always NOT. However, Obama's government was successful in negotiating a deal with the Russians to destroy the declared Syrian chemical stockpile. Apparently a few bombs went undeclared. So the Current Occupant has distinguished himself from his predecessor in Middle East policy regardless of his previous agitprop against targeting Assad's government. Of course the CMM is fawning all over his show of resolve.  However, our NATO ally in the region, Turkey, called the strike "cosmetic" unless Assad is removed from power.

This is the guiding characteristic of the administration: ignore its daily propaganda twits and watch its policy decisions carefully.  Whether the cruise missile strikes will enmesh the United States more deeply in the never-ending, multi-sided Syrian civil war remains to be seen.  Assad’s office said Damascus would respond by striking its enemies harder: “This aggression has increased Syria’s resolve to hit those terrorist agents, to continue to crush them, and to raise the pace of action to that end wherever they are.”

after-action recon: Shayrat Air Base

Thursday, April 06, 2017

America's Heroin Relaspe

Abuse of prescription opiate drugs in 'Merica has been prominent news for a while, but the lesser publicized concomitant is the rise or perhaps better described as a relapse into heroin use.  Part of the reason for increases in heroin use is the drug's cheaper price than opiate prescriptions which users can substitute for opiate drugs since they are similar in chemical composition and effect.  The profile of an 'Merican hooked on heron has change completely in the last fifty years.   Horse was once the drug of choice by poor, young black men.  Now, 90% of heroin users are white, and more than half women.  Eighteen to twenty-five-years-old is still the dominant age category of heroin users.

The drug's infiltration into suburbia is frightening: over the past six years the number of annual users has almost doubled from 370,000 to 680,000 in 2013. Compare this statistic with the drop of heroin use in Europe where the number has fallen by a third in the past decade.  Heroin abuse now exceeds the abuse of crack cocaine, the big high of the 80's and 90's.  Its clear that over prescription of opioid pain relievers is contributing to the problem.  Many heroin users follow the path of prescription drug abuse into heroin addiction.  Unable to support their habit on pills that cost $80 each on the black market, abusers turn to cheaper street heroin. Last year eleven million 'Mericans used black market painkillers, more than the number who used cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, and methamphetamine combined. This chart shows the obvious correlation:


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Second Breeding Population of Tigers Found

a mother and two cubs feeding, courtesy DNP
The world's second breeding population of its Indonesian tiger subspecies (Panthera tigris corbetti) was located by researchers recently in Thailand's Dong-Phayayen Kao Yai Forest Complex (DPKY). The ecosystem is a UNESCO world heritage site. The discovery is the second breeding population located in Thailand. Photo traps indicate a density of 0.63 tigers per 100k², or about one and half tigers per hundred square miles. That is a very low density, but provides hope that these tigers are resilient and can recover if aided by sincere conservation efforts. The 156 cameras captured images of tiger cubs in the area for the first time. The forest in which they cling to existence in the wild is the last remaining contiguous forest canopy in Southeast Asia. Loss of habitat as well as illegal hunting have caused the tigers near extirpation. Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary is the other protected area where tigers are still breeding, thanks to intensive patrolling efforts begun in 2005. DPKY is threaten by illegal logging for Siamese rosewood, a highly sought after timber in China.  In 2015, the Thai government formed an elite ranger formation known as the "Hasadin" to combat forest degradation and poaching. {30.01.17}

burning bright in the forest, courtesy DNP
If tigers go extinct in the wild, it will be the most significant loss of a major mammalian carnivore since the North American lion, Panthera leo atrox which died out at the end of the Pleistocene, 1000 years ago. This extinction would be entirely due to man's predation. Currently only an estimated 3000-4000 wild tigers survive. The thirteen tiger range countries agreed to an ambitious program in 2010, the "year of the tiger" to double tiger numbers by 2022. {22.01.15} President Putin hosted a conference in Russia announcing the plan, and has been photographed releasing rescued tigers back into the wild in Amur.  Habitat fragmentation is the most significant contributor to declines in large mammalian carnivores.  Current development plans in Southeast Asia threaten further fragmentation of existing forest.  Consequently, maintaining connectivity of suitable habitat regions is absolutely essential to ensuring the survival of our beloved tigers. DPKY could potentially support eight times more tigers than it does now.  From this stronghold tigers could then be repopulated throughout the region.  Conservationists must work toward that day by continued efforts to end habitat destruction and poaching.

Monday, April 03, 2017

China Abides Promise to End Ivory Trade

China announced in 2015 that it would shut down its domestic ivory market by the end of 2017.  Authorities took their first step toward meeting the  commitment given to President Obama by closing fifty-five retail outlets and twelve carving factories across the country.  The remaining 105 concerns are scheduled to before December 31st.  The Chinese government acknowledged it faces significant challenges in keeping this promise, but a minister of the Department of Forestry said China is a "responsible country and it takes its international obligations seriously", perhaps a veiled reference to Trump's vow to cancel the Paris climate accord to which China is also a party.  One of the challenges is determining what to do with the raw ivory left over after carving operations are completely shut down.  US Person recommends China burn it, as other ivory supplying African nations have courageously done.

Another is finding work for the highly skilled artisans who now carve the substance.  But only if ivory is treated as worthless in the marketplace will men learn not to covet it. A recent report by an elephant conservation society shows that the price of ivory tusks in China has dropped to $730/kg down from $2100/kg in 2014. What should be coveted by the Chinese is the 200-250 wild Asia elephants that remain alive in wild Yunnan Province, a tiny fraction of the wild elephants that populated China into the 17th century.  Most of China's elephants now live in zoos. [photo credit: Antoine49].  China's decision to close a profitable big business is being praised by CITIES leaders as giving hope to elephants and humans for their viable future on Earth.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

'Toontime: Too Small for His Hat

Several cartoonists are playing on the theme of Trump's trucker hat which he wore throughout the campaign to show his solidarity with white male voters in the midwest and south.  Obviously they did not read the fine print.
credit: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News
But Trump's constituency went to the polls even without the alleged influence of Russian operatives:
credit: Steve Benson, Arizona Republic