Friday, June 29, 2018

Grey Wolves Again Under Fire in Wallowa County

{22.06.18} Another grey wolf in Oregon is in the cross hairs of an irate rancher. The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife will grant a Wallowa County rancher a kill permit after three calves were preyed upon by wolves in the area over a three day period. Depredation was confirmed by investigating officials, and is within the Chesnimnus Wolf Activity Area according to their announcement. [map] ODWF says it uses the same classification criteria as the federal agency with an infamous and egregious record of killing wildlife, USDA Wildlife Services. [see below] In announcing the decision, the Department puts heavy emphasis on private land ownership, as if wolves understand man's artificial boundary drawing. The private pasture in question is also adjacent to public land. Officials stressed the efforts the rancher put forth to use non-lethal means to protect his livestock, which according to the press release primarily consisted of increased human surveillance of hise herd and removal of carcasses. Under the current management plan agriculturalists must document efforts to first use non-lethal means of controlling predation before a permit to kill can be granted. The agency will give the rancher until July 10th to kill one more wolf.  The agency did not state whether the rancher will receive public funds as compensation for his lost calves.

More:  A federal judge in Idaho issued a stinging rebuke to the federal Wildlife Services agency last Friday.  He said the agency failed to properly assess the environmental impact of killing thousands of native wildlife such as mountain lion, coyotes, and foxes.  Like their ranching overseers, the Wildlife Service agents consider such native predators to be "vermin" which should only be removed from the landscape.  The judge held the agency ignored science showing that killing predators does not decrease conflicts with livestock.  Wildlife advocates hailed the opinion as requiring a fair evaluation of the impact of killing off thousands of carnivores each year.  The decision goes into damning detail about the unreliability of Wildlife Service’s own data, and the lack of convincing evidence that the agency took into account important feedback when it finalized its killing proposals.  The prominent Center for Biological Diversity called the federal agency, "trigger happy", and praised the decision as a victory for Idaho's native wild creatures.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Signs of Life in Democratic Party

In a significant victory for party reformers, the Democratic National Committee  overwhelmingly voted to curtail the power of political insiders--so-called super-delegates--in the nomination process by prohibiting from voting on the first ballot.  Reform candidate Bernie Sanders praised the move, calling it a first step in making the party more transparent and accountable to voters.  Hilary Clinton, the candidate of the elite, secured the support of hundreds of super- delegates before a single primary vote was cast, insuring her nomination over socialist Sanders.  We now know what that foregone result has cost the country. DNC Chair, Tom Perez said no candidate should have an accumulated lead before voting begins.  The Rules and Bylaws Committee is set to certify the restrictions next month before they are adopted by the National Committee in August.  Of course, if official Democrats were legitimately interested in "authentic opposition" to the plutocracy, they would have eliminated the category of superdelegates altogether, which was instigated after the 1968 Chicago police riot to prevent another anti-establishment movement from overtaking its convention process.

In other political news, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court this week.  His leaving will allow Hair Further to nominate another arch-conservative to the already conservative high court.  The Koch Brothers are ready to pour millions of influential dollars into promoting Trump's anointed.  A spokesperson for the extremist billionaires said their organization is ready to spend "seven figures" on the nominee.  Their network of conservative political action groups spent millions on the Neil Gorsuch nomination.  These reactionaries see the nomination as a golden opportunity to enshrine a conservative majority on the court for another generation.  The Koch announcement is yet another glaring example of the government for sale in Washington.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

COTW: The Big Lies

Two reoccurring themes in the immigration crisis delusion propagated by Hair Further: one is that undocumented immigrants commit more crime.  The Washington Post published some charts that contradicts that lie:

If immigrants are not committing crimes, they are taking advantage of welfare at a disproportionate rate. This chart explodes that myth too:

In fact, the typical immigrant and his or her descendants will pay $259,000 more in taxes than they receive in government benefits.  Truth be told, current rates of immigration remain extremely low by historic standards.  The immigrants that do manage to make it in the US are generally extremely economically productive, and  well behaved residents.  It may be that Trump's virulent nativism is actually harming the country rather than "making it great again".  Other countries economies have stagnated from the effects of an aging workforce and reduced consumption by older residents.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

'Toontime: Ghouli Goofs

credit: James Darkow, Columbia Missourian
Wackydoodle sez: He'll go for that!

Former 'ace' federal prosecutor Rudi Guiliani has probably done his latest client, Mr. Yuge, more damage than good with his media offensive to protect the Current Occupant from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.  However, there are signs reported by the Washington Post that Mueller is preparing to wind down his investigation by assigning four more Assistant US Attorneys to handle cases brought against 13 Russian nationals as a result of the investigation of their efforts to influence the US presidential election. The indictment includes a statement by one of the suspects that, "We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues." It is unlikely that any of those indicted Russians will see the inside of a federal courtroom since Russia does not extradite its citizens.

Another indication that Mueller is nearing the end of his probe is that prosecutors have asked for a sentencing date for George Papadopoulos, a former consultant to the Trump campaign who agreed to cooperate with the Special Counsel, as early as September 7th. Their agreement to a proposed sentencing date indicates they have no further need of his assistance.

There is glaring dissonance between the reality of the low ethical standard set by Hair Further and the level of support he enjoys among Repugnant voters, which could offset whatever negative findings are eventually made public by the Special Prosecutor. Current polls indicate Trump enjoys a 90% approval rating among party members. One commentator speculates that Trump reels from one concocted crisis to another as a means of binding the president’s supporters to him. The media is usually too busy to cover the un-faked news because they’re busy covering whatever crisis the White House has fomented that week. This week the POTUS spotlight was focused on immigration policy at the border, where the tragic spectacle of immigrant children being separated from their parents facing deportation takes place:

credit: Marion Kamenski, Nebelspalter und Eulenspiegel 
BC Idonwanna sez: Only bigger cage.
Such is the age of political arbitrage where democracy is digitized, and soundbite becomes policy.

Friday, June 22, 2018

INTERPOL Scores in Wildlife Crime Operation

INTERPOL announced the success of a major international operation against wildlife crime this week.  Operation Thunderstorm, conducted in May and involving 92 countries, resulted in 1,974 seizures and identification of 1400 suspects worldwide.  More investigations and arrests are foreseen as ongoing investigations develop.  The seizures alone are astounding in value, and variety of species victimized by the illegal worldwide trade in animals and their body parts.  Forty-eight live primates, 14 big cats, four thousand birds, 27,000 reptiles and 1.3 tons of elephant ivory, and forty-three tons of wild meat. Photo above: live parrots seized by Mexican authorities.

Organized crime groups target high-value animals and plant species, operating though complex, international networks. Often these networks are engaged in other illegal activity such as tax evasion, money laundering and human trafficking. Intensive and cooperative police intelligence on a global scale is required to identify individuals involved in the criminal activity.  As the head of CITES enforcement said, no one country can tackle wildlife crime.  Cooperation between source, transit and market states is essential.  Operation Thunderstorm is an example what cooperative law enforcement can achieve against organized wildlife crime.  Photo above: bear meat and carcass seized by Canadian agents.

The United States participated in the global effort.  Two flight attendants were arrested in Los Angeles smuggling endangered turtles in their personal baggage.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

COTW: A Tale of Two Charts

Here is what you need to know about the status of Social Security.  Repugnants have been systematically trying to reduce Social Security benefits, or eliminate the most popular social program in America's relatively short history.  Predictably, they view the Depression-era old age pension as a socialistic re-distribution of wealth.  Right now, Americans could use a little redistribution if you ask US Person, who is waiting to collect his benefits at age 67.

The first chart shows the obvious problem.  When Social Security began the work force paying into the program far exceeded the number of retirees legible to receive benefits, who also died relatively younger:

The latest report from the program's trustees in 2014 shows that under the two most likely scenarios the program becomes increasingly insolvent through the end of this century:

Monday, June 18, 2018

EPA Publishes New Pesticide Rules

It took lawsuits from three states to force the EPA under the demise of hard-core exploiter, Scott Pruitt, to implement new rules to protect farm workers from pesticides they apply to crops everyday.  California, New York and Maryland filed suit against the agency for its failure to issue new regulations governing worker exposure to the toxic chemicals they handle.  The training requirements Pruitt wanted to discard without public notice or hearing, inform workers on how to minimize their exposure from contaminated clothing and footwear; how to access information about the hazards of particular pesticides they come into contact; insure awareness of emergency medical care.  The number of agricultural workers injured each year by pesticides is not known since there is no national reporting of acute pesticide poisonings or chronic illnesses caused by repeated exposure.  Many of America's farm workers are Mexican or Central American immigrants with little education.  Thirty states require reporting of pesticide injuries, but many incidents go unreported.

Combined exposure to three chemicals commonly sprayed on crops to fight pests in California’s Central Valley triples the risk of Parkinson’s disease for people who work near where the pesticides are sprayed, a research team headed by Dr. Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health, found as far back as 2011.

The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard was first implemented in 1992, but was strengthen with training requirements in 2015.  It was these requirements that were arbitrarily suspended by Pruitt in the name of freeing private enterprise from burdensome government regulations.  So who cares if a few more ignorant farm workers get ill or die, if profit margins can be maintained?  Pruitt has not given up on his effort to weaken the regulations.  His agency plans to publish a new rule making later this year for more revisions to the standards.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

'Toontime: The Stink Still Lingers

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
He almost called off the date with Lil' Kim, nevertheless Der Leader wants to look his best on the world stage.  The show is,  "All Trump, All the Time".

Meanwhile in the Russian Connection investigation, former campaign manager Paul Manafort's pre-trial release was revoked by a federal judge Friday after Robert Mueller charged he attempted to tamper with a witness.  Manafort was immediately taken into custody following the ruling and then taken to Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va.  Two veteran journalists who previously worked with Manafort offered information to Mueller according to the New York Times.  The former colleagues in Ukrainian PR work are just the latest in a string of betrayals against the embattled former campaign manager.  According to court  filings, Manafort and another of his associates with ties to Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik, tried to reach journalists Friedman and Sager via phone calls and encrypted texts.  Rather than respond to Manafort's "reaching out"  They reported the contacts to Special Counsel Mueller.  Mueller added obstructing justice to the five charges Manafort already faces.  Will Manafort cave and give up Mr. Yuge?  Only time, or a presidential pardon, will tell.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Baobab Trees Dying

A visitor to the African Savannah landscape cannot help but notice the giant trees that punctuate the plain or standout on the horizon.  Baobabs (Andasonia) are truly giants of the tree world.  Their great height is only match by their impressive girth; they are the largest and longest-living flowering tree (angiosperm) on Earth.  US Person had the privilege of sitting and standing inside a Baobab trunk during one of his safaris.  One Zimbabwean tree's circumference is so large that forty people can fit inside it.  But scientists studying the giants have some sobering news: the oldest Baobabs are dying or are already dead.

Their findings, published in Nature Plants, said that nine of the thirteen oldest and five of the six largest trees died during the research period, 2005-17.  About sixty trees were examined in the study.  The oldest tree that died was 2,500 years old (the Panke tree in Zimbabwe). Baobabs can live up to 3,000 years according to Kruger Park in South Africa, and are very difficult to kill due to their multi-stem growth pattern. The researchers did not conclude that changing climate was to blame for the demise of so many old trees, but did "suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular."  There was no sign of disease in the dead trees.  The authors called for more study of the shocking die-off.

The most famous baobab is called Chapman, located in central Botswana. [photo]  The initials of explorer David Livingston are carved in its trunk.  Baobabs are important contributors to healthy ecosystems.  They store massive amounts of water, and both animals and humans eat their fruit and leaves.  The bark is used for weaving and rope making. Various baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn, and a bus shelter.  Truly a valuable member of the plant kingdom.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

European Charities Announce First Circus Elephant Sanctuary

Two animal welfare charities in Europe have announced they plan to open Europe's first sanctuary for former circus elephants.  World Animal Protection and Elephant Haven will open the first facility in Limousin province, central France.  Circuses accross Europe exhibit 100 elephants in shows and they have nowhere to retire in safety.  Visitors will be able to view the elephants from an elevated platform as they roam freely in the sanctuary.  The groups said the idea for the sanctuary came about after the Danish government banned the use of wildlife in circus shows.  Fourteen other European governments have implemented similar ban which will come into effect this year according to the groups.  Elephants undergo intensive and sometimes cruel training to make them "safe" to interact and entertain humans at close range.  The survivors deserve a place to live out their lives at peace in natural surroundings.

In other elephant news:  Bunta, the male patrol elephant, trained to help discourage wild elephants from raiding villager's crops was found dead June 9th with one of his large ivory tusks cut from his cheek.  The cause of death was poisoning, a common tactic of irate villagers and poachers alike.  Bunta was 27 years old.  Bunta's killing is the second elephant death in Sumatra by poachers.  In January another male was found poisoned to death and both tusks hacked off.  Enforcement of laws against harming protected species in Sumatra is lax, and there is little hope that Bunta's killers will be brought to justice for their crime. In the few cases that reach the court system, perpetrators typically receive token sentences or minimal fines.  Bunta lived in the Leuser Ecosystem which is threaten by human encroachment.  Only an estimated 2400 Sumatran elephants, Elephas maximus sumatranus, survive in scattered, fragmented forest habitats across the island.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

COTW: The Central Bank Bubble

We have seen the bubble and the housing bubble come and go (disastrously) now it is the time of the "central bank bubble" or sometimes called the "everything bubble"  This chart shows what is happening now:
In an effort to keep the economy and the stock market percolating after the the Great Recession, the central bank, aka the private Federal Reserve, has drastically increased its portfolio of assets.  At 4.5 trillion it it comprises 23% of GDP, which is beans compared to the Bank of Japan's 93%.  The pregnant question is, who will bail out the central banks in then next, greater revaluation.  Just ask John Law or Paul Tudor Jones, rock-star hedge fund manager: “You look at prices of stocks, real estate, anything,” we’re going to have to mean revert to a normal real rate of interest with a normal term premium that’s existed for 250 years. We’re going to have to get back to that. We’re going to have to get back to a sustainable fiscal policy and that probably means the price of assets goes down in the very long run.”

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trump-style Patriotism

People on the right make a big deal out of "patriotism", which is often perverted into a reactionary form of jingoism employed for ulterior motives.  The Don is a leading practitioner of the art. From military parades to the Mexican wall, his degraded form of patriotism is used to discredit others and enrich himself.  So if you have been labeled a "commie" by the flag-wrapped ├╝ber patriots, you will enjoy this cartoon (notice his small hand):

credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer
US Person asks, is it unpatriotic to question the policies of a government that is becoming increasing authoritarian? He offers just two examples here, there are many more: A long-tenured cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has recently had his anti-Trump cartoons censored by the editorial director at the newspaper. The censorship apparently came from Keith Burris, the newspaper’s editorial director, who refused to publish six of the Rob Rogers’ latest cartoons. The New York Times recently reported that the Justice Department has seized years of one of Ali Watkins' email and phone records. The seizure of documents from its reporter was in connection with the investigation of James Wolfe, a former aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee who had worked there for almost three decades.  Watkins had a personal relationship with Wolfe.  One of the censored cartoons appears below.  Hail, Hair Further!

 Rob Rogers, Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Creature Feature: Miami's Macaws

US Person was not aware that Miami has a rather peculiar but beautiful problem: a burgeoning population of non-native parrots.  Escapees from the pet trade find the local climate suitable for their reproduction, so now ten different non-native species, including macaws native to the Amazon, mingle with native semi-tropical birds. Similar to the city's human inhabitants, one could say. This video from The Atlantic shows us the beautiful parrots that call Miami home:

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Illegal World Trade in Ivory

This chart from CITES shows the international trade routes for illegal ivory:

The heaviest black lines indicate the bulk of large scale trade (>5000kg seized)  is headed from Africa's west (Togo) and east (Kenya) coast to China and Southeast Asia.  Consumption of ivory has increased in China in close relation to widespread affluence.  Seizures of illegal ivory worldwide have exceeded 25,000 kgs each year from 2009 through 2013.  In 2016 the amount seized was a record 40,000 kgs.  Japan and Thailand are the other major Asian markets for illegal ivory.  Awareness of the plight of African elephants being poached to death is increasing.  The worse affected areas are central and west Africa.  Unless the rate of poaching drops significantly in the coming years, the African elephant will be extinct. A fate to tragic to contemplate.

Monday, June 04, 2018

US Prosecutors Indict South African Trophy Hunter

Federal prosecutors have indicted Hanno van Rensburg, a South African national and owner of a trophy hunting business for violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act.  His business, Authentic African Adventures led an illegal hunt in Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park in 2015 for elephant.  Prosecutors allege that Zimbabwean officials were bribed with between $5000 and $8000 to ignore the illegal hunt.  Van Rensburg is also accused of conspiring to import elephant ivory into the US with a Colorado man, and former vice president of the Dallas Hunt Club, Paul Ross Jackson of Evergreen.  Documentation was falsified to claim that the hunter was a South African who shot the elephant outside the national park.  The African elephant is listed as "threatened" under the ESA, importation of their ivory is therefore illegal.   Under the Lacey Act importation is prohibited if the species was killed in violation of a foreign nation's laws.

The current administration earlier announced its decision to allow importation of trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe on a confusing "case by case basis".  The Obama administration has previously banned importation of trophies from these countries altogether.  According to a Justice Department press release, Van Rensburg also attempted to sell an illegal elephant hunt to an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent.  Among other things, the defendant attempted to sell the undercover agent a hunt in the same location outside Gonarezhou National Park, and advertised his willingness to pay bribes to obtain tags to hunt inside Gonarezhou National Park.  He suggested to the undercover agent that he bring approximately $9,000 in “extras” to the hunt so that “we can use in camp to make things straight if we need to.”  Jackson pleaded guilty in April to violating the Act in connection to the same hunt conducted by van Rensburg.  Whether this indictment is more than a symbolic gesture will depend on the effort to extradite van Rensburg to the United States.  An extradition agreement between the two nations was ratified in 2001.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

'Toontime: This Week in Trump

More: As if to prove the statement US Person made about him being "without moral compunction", Mr. Yuge claimed the right to pardon himself in a twit. The statement is so outrageous and contrary to Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, that the Repugnant head of the Senate judiciary committee was required to respond. Chuck Grassley said that Trump does not have any such power, and if he had a lawyer that was telling him that, he would "hire a new lawyer." Even the Don's new lawyer Rudi 'Ghouliani' told the press that a self-pardon would precipitate an impeachment in Congress.  Specific bills for just that are already pending in the House.  All it will take is a Democratic majority to make the essentially political process a reality.  The fundamental fact confronting his rabid supporters, is that no one is above the law.  Just ask Richard Nixon.

credit: Steve Sack, Star Tribune
Wackydoodle sez: Leastwise he ain't selling indulgences!

{06.02.18} Mr. Yuge has become enamored of pardons lately. No surprise since presidential pardons may be his trump card when the Russian Connection investigation gets around to the source.  Mr. Manafort could certainly use one if he is convicted of money laundering; of course a pardon would be conditioned on him remaining loyal and not implicating Mr. Yuge in any criminal wrongdoing. Hair Further has already indicated he is willing to pardon some unsavory people like former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, convicted of corruption in office, and former TV hostess, Martha Stewart, convicted of conspiracy and false statements regarding insider trading. Trump also announced his intent to pardon controversial conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza this week.  D'Souza used straw donors to make illegal contributions in a Senate race. The Don's latest interest in pardons is all about who can do the most good for a man without moral compunction. He will make you an offer you cannot refuse.

Viktor Vekelsburg, the Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin, visited Michael Cohen in his Trump Tower office eleven days before the inauguration, reports the New York Times this week. The subject of the meeting was improving US-Russian relations according to a third party at the meeting. Cohen received a $1 million consulting contract from a firm related to Vekelsburg, Columbus Nova, shortly thereafter.  The meeting came months after Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met at Trump Tower during the campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer claiming to have damaging information on his opponent. A former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, met with Russian intermediaries in Europe. During the campaign, Mr. Cohen was also pursuing a deal to build a Trump high-rise in Moscow, which did not come to fruition.