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'!