Wednesday, August 30, 2017

COTW: Still Don't Accept Global Warming?

Some 'Mericans apparently do not!  They elected a President who has taken the United States out of the only global treaty that has a slim chance of adverting the worse consequences of global warming.  So these charts, courtesy of NOAA, have to be posted to remind those people of why they are where they are.  Hurricane Harvey has posted a record amount of rainfall inundating the central Texas coast, transforming the fourth largest city in the US into the coastal marsh land upon which it was built.  Satellite imagery shows 30 inches accumulated in the Houston metro area.  An astounding 49.32 inches was officially collected at Mary's Creek, southeast of the city, besting the previous record set by Hurricane Amelia in 1978. A full-scale of evacuation of such a large city would have been chaotic at best with many vulnerable citizens trapped on roads by flooding. The storm is not over; it is projected to return to the Gulf and head inland towards New Orleans on Wednesday.  An additional 6-12 inches is expected; if that prediction is correct Houston will receive as much rain in a week that it normally receives in a year.  US Person wants to know: is Pittsburgh applauding now?

NOAA: 9 of 10 extreme one-day rainfall events have occurred in the last 10 years

NOAA: The Texas Gulf Coast has experienced a 30% increase in rainfall over the last century

Monday, August 28, 2017

Climate Change Hurting Chinook Salmon

The West Coast's "king of salmon", the chinook, is suffering from the effects of man-induced climate change.  Populations of the favorite of sportsman and commercial fisherman are down, so extremely low in fact, that Alaska has cancelled its chinook season this year.  Warm water temperatures are blamed for the lack of ocean prey species, which of course reduces the number of salmon that survive to return to their home streams for spawning.  The lowest level of surface nutrients on record were seen in 2014 which starved phytoplankton, which starved zooplankton, that starved herring, which Chinook eat.  Conditions have improved since "the Blob" lodged in the Gulf of Alaska in 2013, but salmon populations have yet to rebound.  California, Idaho, British Columbia and Washington have restricted fisheries in response.  Even in salmon-crazed Oregon, a state fish manager admits "This year is bad.  I don't see next year as being any better."

Global warming is gradually heating the surface waters of the Northern Pacific, making extreme events like the Blob more likely.  Surface water temperatures are still elevated a few degrees Fahrenheit above normal. NOAA's recent salmon survey show ocean salmon are still in decline.  The results of the research are scheduled to be released in September.  Climate models do not show the North Pacific heating up this much so soon.  So there is some hope that conditions will improve for the king of salmon.  Meanwhile, the cancellation of Alaska's season is estimated to cost the troll fleet and processors $6 million. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

'Toontime: The Warfare Line

Trump is only a faux-populist as readers probably realize now; in actuality he is a front man for empire.  And he is reliably maintaining the frontiers despite his campaign rhetoric about withdrawing from Afghanistan.  In 2013 Trump twited: “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”  One member of Congress called his decision to send more troops to the benighted wilderness, "the definition of insanity."  Jeffery St. Clair cogently writes at Counterpunch: 
Nothing better illustrates the eclipse of US global power than the fact that Afghanistan refuses to be subjugated or even managed, despite 16 years of hard-core carnage. Since the first US airstrikes hit Kandahar in October 2001, more than 150,000 Afghan civilians have been killed. Still Afghanistan resists imperial dictates....the Taliban now retains almost as much control of the country as it did in 2001.

credit: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News
Wackydoodle sez:  They're MAGA!
Need you ask US Person why America is hated?  Nero could not have done better.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Interior Reccomends Shrinking 3 National Monuments

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke recommended three National Monuments established by previous Democratic administrations be reduced in size in a report submitted to DerTrump:  Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears in Utah and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon.   The reduction in size of Bears Ears is said to be significant because its establishment was very controversial and opposed by the entire Utah Congressional delegation.  The report found the twenty-seven monuments reviewed, unique, but also stated the Antiquities Act should not be used to "restrict public access prevent hunting and fishing, burden private land, or eliminate traditional land uses, unless such action is needed to protect the object.”  The Secretary also noted that public support for monuments ran heavily in favor of maintaining existing monuments and "demonstrated a well organized national campaign."  Nearly three million people submitted comments during the review period.

Bears Ears was established in consultation with regional native tribes who consider much of its landscape sacred.  Commercial exploiters of the public lands won key concessions from the rabidly pro-business administration.  A representative of the National Cattlemen Association said "previous [Democratic] administration got a little too greedy".  The irony of that statement is too obvious to dwell on.  Conservation organizations have promised to legally oppose any changes in the designations made by previous Presidents.  Tribal officials have lobbied hard to preserve Bears Ears, which boasts extensive ancestral Pueblo artifacts and rock art. [photo]. Seven tribes in Utah and the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes of Montana, passed resolutions this month calling for the monument’s boundaries to remain in place.

Siskiyou National Forest
The 48,000 acre expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou by President Obama during his last days in office was adamantly imposed by timber interests who maintain that the designation encroaches on "O&C" lands set aside by Congress during the 1930s for permanent timber production.  The American Forest Resource Council filed suit against the expansion before the current administration took office.  Secretary Zinke visited the area, but spent almost all of his time there talking to business interests.  The Siskiyou Mountains contain rocks that date back 425 million years and are some of the oldest in the state. The area is also home to more than 275 species of flowering plants, according to conservationists.

New Fruit Bat Species

Many people have a phobia for bats, but nevertheless they are important members of their ecosystems.  They are responsible for pollination, insect control and seed transmission.  Fruit bats eat the fruit of a wide variety of shrubs and trees; seeds of these plants are distributed by the bats after digestion.  A new species was located in Papua, New Guinea and described in the scientific journal, Records of the Australian Museum.  Named after a conservationist Deborah Wright, Nyctimene wrightae, it is known as Hamamas by local people for its appearance of a perpetual smile.  Hamamas, or "Happy" has a rounder, broader jaw than most fruit bats giving it "the appearance of a constant smile", says the scientist who formally described the species [photo, with young].  It also has tube nostrils in common with other members of its genus who occupy northern Australia, Philippines and Melanesia.

Classification of the animal was problematic for Nancy Irwin, a research fellow at the University of York, UK.  There are several closely related bats in a group, referred to as the "cyclotis group", that has received different classifications over time.  Irwin says the newly described bat is member of that group.  Taxonomy, or the science of naming species, is often considered obscure, but it is a necessary step in the conservation of species that may be threatened with extinction.  Besides, Hamamas is simply happy for human recognition of its existence.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anchors Awry

The US Navy was forced to suspend world-wide operations after the USS John S. McCain collided with a Liberian tanker off Singapore on Monday. The collision put a ten foot hole in the destroyer below the water line. [photo, aft of stern stacks]  Ten sailors are missing.  This was the fourth collision of Navy vessels since August 2016:

  • June 17, 2017: Seven sailors were killed when the Fitzgerald, a destroyer, was broadsided by a Philippines-registered cargo ship, about 60 miles off the coast of Japan. The cargo ship breached the destroyer's hull filling a sleeping compartment with seawater.  The ship's captin, his executive officer and a senior NCO were relieved of their duties;
  • May 9, 2017: A 60-70 foot South Korean fishing boat collided with the Lake Champlain, a guided-missile cruiser, on its port side while the cruiser was conducting routine operations in international waters;
  • Aug. 19, 2016: The Louisiana, a nuclear ballistic-missile submarine, and the Eagleview, a Military Sealift Command support vessel, collided while conducting routine operations in the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the coast of Washington State.  Both ships' hulls were damaged.
Are the collisions a spectacular display of poor seamanship, arrogance, or just a drunken sailor at the helm? Apologists for the empire are claiming, not the first time of course, that the Navy is stretched too thin in view of its globe-girdling duties.  There are not enough ships or enough men. Incredibly the Navy just launched its most expensive aircraft carrier ever.  It has more carrier task forces than both of its nearest competitors, China and Russia.  The Pentagon, it seems, can never get enough.  Adm. Richardson's investigations will attempt to find out if there is a systemic problem causing the collisions.  Perhaps the design of such apparently fragile warships or the maintenance of global military hegemony are systemic problems?  It's your money.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Poland's Primeval Forest to Loose Protection

UK's Guardian newspaper tells us that Poland's conservative government wants the Bialowieza Forest which straddles the border with Belarus to loose its UNESCO World Heritage status since it was granted illegally.  Poland's environment minister has called for the protection to be stripped so logging can continue in the forest.  The forest is one of the last surviving remnants of the primeval forest that covered most of the European continent ten thousand years ago. It is home to many unique life forms including the European bison (Bison bonasus) [photo].   Some of the large oaks (Quercus robur) in the forest are about half a century old.

circa 1955
The forest was protected early in its human history as a private hunting ground for the Polish King.  Sigismund I issued a decree in 1538 imposing the death penalty for poaching a royal bison.  In 1639, all peasants living in the forest were freed from taxes in exchange for their service as royal foresters.  Bialowieza, which takes its name from the central village, remained mostly uninhabited until the late 17th century.  When Russia occupied the area after the Partition of Poland, hunting took place in earnest.  Tsar Alexander II ordered the killing of all forest predators in a misguided effort to protect remaining bison. World wars in Europe also took a heavy toll on the forest. The last bison was shot in 1921.  The core of the forest was declared a national park in 1923 and a small herd of bison, also called wizant, was reintroduced.  They successfully reproduced.  Today, there are about 800 of Europe's biggest land mammal living in Bialowieza.
bison cave art @ Altamira, Spain
Since most of the forest lies outside the boundaries of the national park, logging has continued since the Middle Ages.  Foresters argue that managed logging is necessary to control pests, remove dead wood that poses a fire risk, and allow reestablishment of forest in less time than nature alone would take.  Environmentalists say the ancient forest cannot be managed as a renewable resource if it, and the unique creatures that make it their home are to survive.  Greenpeace activists chained themselves to woodcutting equipment in an attempt to stop logging.  The current Polish minister for the environment wants to triple the amount of logging taking place. (6.6 million ft³).  The increased activity began in May of last year.  He says that the entire forest is not pristine and ancient, but has in fact been replanted by man over the centuries in areas not originally forest.  He wants the designation, which was granted without consultation with local people in 2011, to be changed to allow for mixed use.

The dispute arises before the annual meeting of UNESCO in Krakow.  UNESCO has previously expressed concern over the logging of Bialowieza, and the European Commission said in April it could take legal action to halt the logging.

Friday, August 18, 2017

'Toontime: If It Qacks Like A Duck...

PNG features two cartoons from Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, suggesting that the cur in the White House is a populist like Mr. Schicklgruber's son was a populist.  The firing of his chief nationalist hate monger, Mr. Steve Bannon, does nothing to change the Occupant's own fascist tendencies. (note the acknowledgement of Pulitzer cartoonist Bill Mauldin, creator of GIs Willie and Joe). General Kelly is doing is level best to remove all the incendiaries from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave since his new boss is volatile enough. The second cartoon featured here provides an accurate picture of the reality behind the populist front of President Mc Donald:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The 'Blob' Proved Deadly

US Person posted about "the Blob" in 2015 {15.08.15] . The Blob was a mass of unusually warm water off the northern Pacific coast starting in 2013 that disrupted the usual westerly jet stream pattern and caused unusual weather events in the United States such as ice storms in Texas. More drastically, the Blob interfered with the normal food chain in the ocean. Warm waters are less productive of zooplankton, which thrives in cold water, thus reducing food for fish and other animals farther up the food chain such as marine mammals.  A marine mammal scientist predicted, “I would expect that you’d start to see [lower birth rates] in the next year [2015],”  When food is scarce, “the first thing you do is save yourself,” he says.

Sadly, that prediction proved accurate.  The anchovy fishery collapsed off southern California.  Anchovies are the favorite prey of sea lions.  Sea lions turned to rockfish as a substitute, but it does not have the same nutritional value as oily anchovies.  Consequently nursing sea lion mothers were unable to properly feed their young.  Thousands of sea lion pups died of starvation.  Their emaciated bodies littered the beaches.  The number of strandings exploded in 2015 to 2500, about ten times the usual annual rate.  Fortunately, the California sea lion population is large, about 300,000, so the species can weather the disaster.

Sea lions were not the only species affected by the weird ocean conditions causing a lack of food.  Sea birds living on the Farallons, off San Francisco, did not make an effort to breed.  More whales than usual got ensnared in crabbing equipment in 2016 because they followed the remaining anchovies close to shore.  The Blob phenomenon has passed for now, but scientists say it can happen again with the same disastrous results for marine wildlife  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Hack That Was NOT

The Democrats, the other half of the neo-liberal, authoritarian political establishment that rules the nation has continually blamed the Russians for the Hillary debacle because they hacked the DNC's email server.  President Putin has patiently denied these allegations with such vehemence that US Person has given his denials some credence.  Now comes a story from former intelligence experts and reported in the Nation that claims the DNC hack was an inside job, not the nefarious work of Russian agents, as alleged by an unreliable and ultimately biased mass media and intelligence apparatus that would have us believe our serious national problems are caused by outside, hostile forces and not our own corrupt, decrepit institutions.

Computer forensics provides support for the following woeful conclusions:
  •  the hack of the DNC mail server was accomplished locally using a portable data storage device (USB-2 thumb drive). No hack from Romania could have achieved the transfer speeds over the Internet revealed in the metadata of the download;
  • time stamps indicate the download took place in the EDT time zone;
  • before Guccifer 2.0 took responsibility for the leak of sensitive documents to Wikileaks they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a Russian language template to give the appearance that the hack was related to Russian involvement;
  • no one knows who phished John Podesta's e-mail, or even if it was actually attacked, or conveniently leaked by people with access to the account.
These conclusions were reached through independent investigations by security service professionals who are members of VIPS, which stands for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  They wrote Barrack Obama three days before he left office that the hack was much more likely to be an "inside job" as opposed to meddling of Russian intelligence.  Unfortunately, that was an inconvenient truth. The reality is the Russian hacking narrative is a political construction on the same historic level as the "Spanish blew up the Maine". The VIPS forensic work can be seen at

A national intelligence assessment concluding the Russians were responsible is devoid of evidence that proves Russian agents were involved in a hack of DNC computers, but it is full of such categorical assertions.  One former senior official and member of VIPS called the assessment "a disgrace to the intelligence profession."  It was the work of three "hand-picked" agents from three agencies.  In light of the new forensic evidence, one has to ask: were they hand picked for their political reliability?  The FBI has never examined DNC's computer servers. They relied on information provided by the DNC's IT contractor, Crowd Source, which is co-founded by a notoriously anti-Russian emigre, Dimitri Alperovitch.  Crowd Source says that all malware was removed from DNC computers previous to the official investigation.  A convenient, if not revealing fact.

Monday, August 14, 2017

COTW: Brazil's Arc of Deforestation

This satelite imagery shows the massive extent of tree cover loss in the Amazon Basin along an arc that extends from the Amazon River's estuary in the northeast to the Bolivian border in the south:

magenta: tree loss, courtesy Global Forest Watch
A recent comprehensive study of Amazon's tree loss published in Science Advances estimates that more than half of the tree species could qualify for ICUN's Red List as threatened.  These species include some iconic ones such as the brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa) and wild cacao (Theobroma cacao).  By 2013 Amazonia which once extended over six million square kilometers lost 12% of its tree cover.  Along the arc of deforestation, clearances for cattle ranching pose the greatest threat, followed by logging and slash and burn agriculture near settlements.  Manioc, a staple of the local diet, requires new patches of clear ground every year.

Obviously the forests provide habitat for a myriad of creatures, as well as a vital carbon sink for Earth.  Fortunately nearly 50% of the Amazon is under some form of protection, but enforcing the rules in a such a wild region is difficult and irregular.  Recently an expedition to find a "lost" monkey species, the bald-faced Vanzolini saki [photo], last collected in 1936, was rediscovered on the banks of the Rio Eiru near the arc of deforestation.  The researchers also fond plenty of evidence of habitat destruction caused by logging and agricultural clearances.

credit: C. Selby

Friday, August 11, 2017

Greenland Is Burning

That is a headline guaranteed to open eyes since most people think of
Greenland as a frozen world, but smaller than the other frozen world, Antarctica.  However, satellite images [above] show a wildfire burning in western Greenland.  The fire is big enough, about the size of midtown Manhattan, to be detected by satellite.  Small wildfires are not uncommon in Greenland, but are too small to be seen from above. Experts are not sure what started the fire.   The fire is in an area that is semi-arid, but climate change is increasing the local temperature and more shrubs are growing as the growing season lengthens.  Droughts will be more frequent too, so large wildfires will be a more common occurrence in Greenland.  All across the Arctic boreal forests are burning at a rate not seen in 10,000 years.  Of course this burning will release from storage millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which will in turn impact global temperature.

'Toontime: Who Is the Loser?

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
Not Donald Trump, that is for sure. Just ask him. Everybody else is a loser in Washington except Donald Trump.  According to his own count, the guy has won 18 golf club championships, after all!  Of course you will may not find his name on the wall of honor in any club house, but that is a minor detail.  After seven years of trying the Repugnants failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act which is neither affordable, nor very caring.  Their final effort at "skinny repeal" was defeated by their own party members, notably John McCain, whose expensive cancer treatment will be paid by government insurance.  Perhaps his conscience got the better of him, so he could not vote to strip 27 million Americans of their health care.  That is something that rarely bothers Donald Trump.  A conscience is for losers.

To prove he is not a loser, der Trump has ordered six B-1B supersonic bombers designed and built to penetrate air defenses to deliver nuclear weapons on alert in Guam.  The ultimate leader has assured his fans via social media that his plans for an attack on North Korea are "locked and loaded".  North Korean leaders have threatened to launch missiles in the direction of Guam, which is well within their weapons' range, about 2000 miles away.  According to the Daily Mirror, the RAF has been asked to help pinpoint nuclear sites and stockpiles in North Korea as potential targets.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

COTW: Why They Voted for Trump

According to Edward Luttwak, political scientist and historian writing an article in the Times Literary Supplement, a major reason for the election of the political disaster known as Donald Trump is the banal fact that more middle-class 'Mericans can no longer afford to buy a new car.  In US society, cars are a necessity--you need one to get to work and buy food in most places.  People who can use convenient mass transit in urban areas for these life-sustaining activities are lucky.  But cars are also an emblem of middle-class affluence.  Cars are becoming so expensive, and disposable incomes shrinking so much that average people have to forgo the "new car" smell of which they are so fond. That sad fact upsets them enough to vote against their economic interests for a scamming billionaire posing as one of them.  Look at this chart:

The index in blue shows that a prudent, median income household can only afford to pay 61.7% of the price of a new car.  Back in 2016 when the polls were open, they could only buy half a new car!  Which means persons wanting to purchase a new car must incur more consumer debt.  The average length of time to payoff a car loan is now 68 months, a record high.  The average monthly payment is over $500. Such large expenditure for a depreciating asset is not smart consumption. Personal finance advisers recommend the 20-4-10 rule to insure a car purchase does not overextend an owner (20% down, 4 year term, monthly payment > 10% of gross income.  This rule is the basis of the affordability index in the chart.    But owning a car is more about perceived social status than smart consumption.  Just ask Donald Trump.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Warmongering of Donald Trump

As predicted here {31.07.17}, Mr. Trump has issued a stark threat unprecedented in its bellicosity during peacetime to the regime of North Korea.  The reason for the threat of a nuclear strike ("fire and fury...the likes of which the world has never seen before ") against the North Koreans is a US intelligence report that Kim Jong Un's scientists have succeeded in miniaturizing a nuclear device that will fit inside North Korea's recently tested long-range ICBM. [photo: Hwasong 14] Another report by the Defense Intelligence Agency says that the number of its nuclear devices is estimated larger than previously thought--some sixty warheads. Mr. Trump made the explicit threat of nuclear war while at his golf course in New Jersey.

Pardon US Person if he expresses undue skepticism about these intelligence reports.   This is the same security establishment that warned us of "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.  We all know how that turned out.  The motivation for the Trump Circus to use whatever propaganda techniques it can to divert public fury over its miserable failure as a government is too great to ignore*.    Some corroboration by other western nations' intelligence agencies would be helpful in the interest of adverting the death of millions in a nuclear holocaust.

As a citizen of the only country to use atomic bombs in war, it is very disconcerting to US Person when the commander of a vast military establishment threatens any military action, let alone nuclear war.  When the probity of that commander has been brought into question, such explicit threats are even more unsettling given his counterpart's apparent willingness to risk nuclear annihilation.  US Person is not alone in his unease; a majority of US citizens do not trust Trump to handle the North Korean problem short of armed conflict.

The Korean peninsula has been an unresolved stalemate since the ceasefire signed in 1953.   An unresolved war has been allowed to fester by successive administrations; the standoff has reached criticality now that North Korea has succeeded in producing a nuclear weapon with intercontinental range.  If estimates of N. Korean weapons' progress are correct, there is a rapidly closing window for peaceful settlement of a seventy-year old conflict.  Or has war, even nuclear war, become too easy an option for a supposedly peace-loving nation?

*Directly contradicting the climate change denier-in-chief, a panel of government scientists from thirteen agencies, concluded that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The draft report directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.  Due to fears that the Circus would attempt to bury the report, the draft was leaked to the New York TimesThe U.S. State Department last week officially informed the United Nations that it would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but left the door open to re-engaging if the terms improved for the United States. The United States insists on having its way in the world, and is all too willing to flex its overlarge military muscle to get it.   Dr. Martin Luther King observed that the American warfare elite are “the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today”.  An official propaganda organ, the "Center for Information Analysis and Response" has already been established in the Pentagon to feed the masses with the "official" version of why a nuclear war was begun by their President, thanks to the previous occupant and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barrack Obama, who signed the largest Pentagon budget in US history, $618 billion. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

Nuclear Power's Slow Demise

Two of the remaining four nuclear power plants to be constructed in the US have been cancelled, both at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina.  The remaining plants are at the Vogtle site in Georgia.  The cancellations are writing on the wall, and it does not take a Daniel to decypher the demise of new nuclear power in the United States.  As long as the drilling boom continues producing inexpensive natural gas, nuclear power is uneconomic.  Renewable power sources are also rapidly becoming less expensive, making it even more difficult to justify the social risk of nuclear power.

The industry has a deplorable history of cost overruns, huge maintenance costs, and an unsolved radioactive waste disposal problem, not to mention two epic meltdowns and one near miss in the US.  Richard Nixon touted that nuclear power generation in the US would reach 1,000 plants by 2000.  The inventory never got beyond about 250, on-line or in development.  Cancellation of the two Vogtle plants would be the definitive end of the nuclear wet dream.  One of the Carolina plant owners, Santee-Cooper voted unanimously on July 31st. to shut down construction.  The state owned utility had been forced to raise rates five times to pay for its nuclear Edsel.  Soon after their announcement, partner SCANA Corp. also called it quits. It had raised its rates nine times.

The cancelled plants were to be Westinghouse's 'new and improved' AP1000 designs, an update of the standard pressurized water reactor fizzing out the kilowatts all over the world. In an irony that is too 'yuge' to ignore, Westinghouse's big bet on nuclear power drove the nearly 200 year old company into bankruptcy in March.  Westinghouse won the contract to generate among the first load of commercial power from Niagara Falls using technology developed by Nicola Tesla.  Westinghouse's parent company, Toshiba is also in financial trouble.  It has offered $2 billion to help complete the plants, but an estimated $11 billion is needed.  Moreover, the owners figured they could not meet the completion deadline of 2021 to receive a critical federal tax credit.

The Vogtle facilities are also costing an arm and a leg.  The Georgia legislature took the unusual step of allowing owners to collect increased rates even before the plants begin commercial service, if ever.  Obamarama gave the Georgia utilities involved in the project $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees, and it still may not be enough. {18.02.10, Obama's Nuclear Con}  Only China is planning to build new secular cathedrals to man's hubris. Perhaps the continuing tragedy of Fukushima will be enough to convince elites that "too cheap to meter" is only a memorable sales pitch, not a livable reality.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

'Toontime: The Twitted Government

credit: Steve Sack, Star-Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez: Big mistake give him driver's license!
The first thing hard-line general John Kelly did was fire the Trumpster's newly hired communications director, who's poor taste exceeds even that of his boss. Kelly will attempt to reign-in his commander's undisciplined communications, imposing a sort of "radio-silence" on the west wing of the White House.  It will take a Marine general to accomplish this task.  Trump's penchant for taking to the airwaves was his announcement of a trans-gender ban for the military after being "slow-talked" by his aides for weeks on the issue.  They rightly raised a host of problems with the idea.  According to Politico, Trump told others they would have to “get in gear” if he announced the ban first, one White House adviser who spoke to Trump said. He also said the announcement would stop the lawyers from arguing with him anymore. There is still no plan in place for a trans ban and Defense Department officials have said they won’t implement the ban until guidance is given.  God help the United States of America.

Friday, August 04, 2017

COTW: Land of the Oppressed

Authoritarian regimes historically have imposed the will of their rulers on the rest of the population through the application of force administered by police or paramilitaries.  Look at this chart and ask yourself what do you see:

The United States suffers from a disproportionately large number of homicides by police.  Throughout this nation's history, political and social movements which threaten rule by an economic elite have been suppressed through application of police force.  To name a few examples, the labor movement of the 19th-20th centuries in which strikes were violently suppressed by militia and hired guns, the Ludlow, CO Massacre being one of the most notorious incidents; the antiwar protests and civil rights movement of the '60s culminating in the 1968 Chicago Police Riot and the killing of four college students by the Ohio National Guard during a demonstration at Kent State; and the brief Occupy movement of this century.  Unjustified police killings that go unpunished because of a biased judicial system have a chilling effect on the exercise of dissent that is constitutionally protected.  According to the Washington Post, there have been 963 police homicides so far this year. Now we have the deplorable spectacle of the nation's leader encouraging police to use force against immigrants.  As one rock star put it: "Better run through the jungle, and don't look back to see!"

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Canopy Pathways Help Animals Cross Pipelines

A study in the Urubamba region of the Peruvian Amazon documents how arboreal animals use canopy pathways left intact by humans to cross a natural gas pipeline in the forest. [map]  Scientists worked with a pipeline construction company to identify places along the route of a new pipeline where canopy trees could be uncut allowing their large branches to bridge the cleared route naturally.  Of 42 sites identified, only thirteen were feasible due to engineering restraints.  A two and a half mile stretch of pipeline without crossing points was used as a control, to assess the effect of canopy bridges on animal behavior.  Remote cameras were strategically placed at the crossing points; images were captured of animals using the bridges and confronting the pipeline on the ground.  The remote cameras are relatively noninvasive; some critics think the use of flash photography using visible light is unacceptable since it can temporarily blind species who have sensitive night vision.  But the information collected by the cameras is invaluable since it would be logistically impossible to collect the same amount and quality of data without the use of the equipment.

credit: T. Gregory, F. Carrasco-Rueda
The data collected was abundant and revealing. In total 25 different species used the bridges, at a rate of 200 times that of ground crossings. [photo: tamandua & infant crossing]  The researchers estimate that about 150 individuals used the pathways left for them.  The absence of 19 arboreal species crossing on the ground indicate that pipeline routes do effect animal behavior and have the potential to further fragment forest habitats; thousands of square miles of the Amazon basin are zoned for resource development.     In Peru, some resource companies are beginning to incorporate natural crossing points for wildlife in their planning.  Hopefully the Peruvian government will require all development companies to do since it is shown to be a cost-effective and beneficial feature. Once again research shows that animals can adapt to man's presence if given an opportunity to do so.