Sunday, July 29, 2018

Polar Bears Running Out of Food

a study bear wearing a video collar
US Person suggested several years ago to the NRDC that they could become the "poster child" of global warming because they are so dependent on sea ice for hunting seals.  Sea ice in the Arctic is rapidly disappearing at a rate surprising even to experts.  The ice coverage in the Arctic is reduced 14% per decade.  As the ice floes disappear, surviving polar bears are moving inland, and swimming farther. The cost will be of extreme proportions: a third or more of them will die from starvation or drowning.  Recently a grotesquely tragic video of a starving polar bear circulated on the Internet.  It will not be re-posted here because it is so distressing to watch.  Her emaciated body revealed her fate: her muscles will atrophy eventually making her immobile, to die a painful and prolonged death.

Authors of a study published recently in the journal Science collared nine female to track their hunting efforts over 8-12 days in the Beaufort Sea during 2014-2016.  Blood and urine samples show the bears have a high metabolic rate, requiring a lot of food.  In the spring bears catch mostly juvenile seals, but as the year progresses the prey is more experienced and becomes more difficult to catch.  USGS estimates the additional hunting activity requires 1-4 extra seals a year. Single adults may be able to survive this additional burden, but for mothers nurturing one and two year old cubs, the energy deficit cannot be overcome.

In other polar bear news, a German cruise worker shot and killed a bear on Spitsbergen Island in Norway's Svalbard Archipelago on Sunday. [photo] The cruise company said the bear was shot in "self defense" of another guard employee who was slightly injured by the animal during a landing, and that it "greatly regrets this incident"  Polar bears have been protected in Norway since 1973 and nearly 1,000 were counted on Svalbard during a 2015 census. Five fatal attacks have been recorded in the last forty years. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

'Toontime: Flip the Flop

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
BC Idonwanna sez, Wilson not available!

He never fails to hide behind the Dow Jones or the GDP numbers, and he did so this week, but that fails to distract from the fact that Michael Cohen, is former legal fixer, has agreed to cooperate with the investigation into the Russian Connection. CNN reported that Cohen told sources he was present when Trump's son told Mr. Yuge about the offer from Russians to help him with damaging information about the Democratic nominee. Cohen said Trump approved of going ahead with the meeting that took place in Manhattan's Trump Tower.

Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, facing trial on money laundering charges, and current White House adviser Jared Kushner, met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, an informant for Russian intelligence. The meeting was arranged by music producer Rob Goldstone who told Trump Jr. a Russian government lawyer was offering to produce information that would be damaging to Clinton's White House bid. The Cohen flip was met with the usual denials from both the subject of interest and his new mouthpiece, Rudy 'Gouli'. Mr. Yuge went so far as to suggest that Cohen's decision to cooperate with Robert Mueller was related to Cohen's alleged illegal dealings with New York taxi cabs. Rudy weighed in too, calling Cohen a "pathological liar". Then the pot called the kettle, black.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Lions Are Targeted by Trump

The continuing war against nature conducted by Hair Further and his cronies is exemplified by the news that his administration has issued more than three dozen lion trophy permits, allowing permits holders to import lion parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia into the country.  Thirty-three nimrods were given the permits; more than half donated to Repugnant politicians or have ties to Safari Club International.  Clearly, the permits are a reward for their financial support of captive lawmakers.  Lions in Africa are under severe stress from loss of habitat and prey.  Their populations have declined significantly across their shrinking range.  Once they lived from the Mediterranean Sea to the southern cape; now they are largely confined to East and Southern Africa. Only an estimated 20,000 still survive in the wild.  Lions in Asia have largely disappeared except for a remnant population living in the Gir National Forest of India.  The last census in 2017 recorded about 650.  Only the most insensitive, cynical, hostile and anthropocentric humans can justify hunting an icon of courage and strength when its existence is threatened by man's mismanagement and exploitation of the natural world.

Steve Chancellor, who raised $1 million at a fundraiser in his home, was appointed by Interior Secretary Zinke to head the newly created International Wildlife Conservation Counsel which is tasked with removing legal barriers to importation of animal trophies and promoting international hunting trips.  Chancellor was awarded a permit to import lion parts from Zimbabwe in 2016.  Secretary Zinke benefited from Safari Club largess, receiving a $10,000 donation to his congressional campaign from the organization.  There are other blatant examples of this putrid cronyism.  The greatest number of permits went to residents of Texas where a frontier mentality has never faded.

Etosha male, credit: US Person
After Cecil the lion was killed by an American dentist, the Obama administration moved to protect lions with additional restrictions on the importation of lion trophies including a ban on the import of trophies from Zimbabwe and any lion killed in enclosed parks. The Fish & Wildlife Service was also required to issue permits only for hunts of Panthera leo melanochaita that were proven to be part of a well-managed national conservation program in the country where the lions were killed.  A finding that lion hunting will improve their survival chances as a species is still required.  But since the Trump regime began loosening these restrictions at the behest of hunting interests, issuing trophy permits on a case by case basis excludes the public and conservationists from commenting on these findings before the permits are issued.  Scientific findings by a University of Montana conservation biologist support the conclusion that banning hunting increases lion populations.  Zambia imposed a three year hunting moratorium for lions; lion numbers increased with more cubs being raised. Contrary to reality, this government under Trump this administration has actually ratcheted up the false narrative that hunting can somehow save lions. The denial never stops.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

COTW: Era of the Anthropcene

Many scientists think that man has entered a new geologic era. The Holocene that is ending featured 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which civilization developed. But the changes wrought on the planet by man's four hundred years of intense industrialization cannot be ignored any longer unless you are a captive politician whose career is sponsored by the fossil fuel industry. The Holocene has given way to the Anthropocene characterized by altered climate and geology caused by man's activities.

The question remains at what point has the Anthropocene begun. A convenient, accurate and highly specific time line can be drawn in the rocks. The appearance of transuranic elements cause by radioactive decay is such a bright line. These are unknown in Nature or only exist in minute amounts, such as plutonium and neptunium. All the elements past uranium (atomic number 92) save where first created in the laboratory or in atomic explosions since they have half lives much shorter than the age of the Earth. Atomic testing in the atmosphere began in 1945 with the Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert, precursor to the first atomic weapons in history and dropped on Japan. Tragically, the Anthropocene is marked by another characteristic: the mass extinction of animals on Earth. According to the World Wildlife Fund and the London Zoological Society more than half of the planet's wild animals have disappeared in just the past forty years. The population of sea creatures has plummeted by 40%. It is the 6th mass extinction in the planets 4 billion year history, but the only one caused by man's occupation of the planet. This chart shows the major reasons for wildlife's decline:

Our living planet is in serious decline as shown by this chart based on population trends of 10,380 populations of 3,038 mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species:

As man's civilization morphs into an almost seamless global development covered in plastic, steel, concrete and asphalt, wild creatures are running out of room to live their lives. This chart shows the crisis faced by creatures ranging from plants to insects to vertebrates as global temperature climbs. The web of life on this planet is in danger of collapsing irreversibly. Man may be able to delay the consequences with the intervention of his god, Technos, but he cannot escape the doom. With great power, comes great responsibility:

chart credits: UK Guardian

Monday, July 23, 2018

Amur Leopards Near Extinction

a leopard mother and two cubs, courtesy of the Kremlin
A new estimate of Amur leopards, Panthera pardus orientalis shows they are on the edge of extinction in the wild. About 84 individuals live along the remote border of Primorskii Province, Russia and Jilin Province, China. The new estimate was published in Conservation Letters by Russian, Chinese and American scientists, and is based on camera traps placed on both sides of the border.  Previously, estimates were based on pug marks in the snow or mud, consequently they were prone to error.  The new technique allows identification of individual leopards from their unique spot pattern.  Comparison of data from both countries results in relatively precise counting.  Because there are no records of these leopards elsewhere, this dwindling number of individuals represents the world's remaining members of the species.

credit: E. Rondeau
The data shows the big cats move freely across the border.  About one third of them were photographed on both sides.  Because the leopard population in Primorskii is reaching saturation, they appear to be colonizing habitat in China.  The international cooperation demonstrated by the study is encouraging to conservationists who increasingly recognize that international solutions are necessary to conserve remaining population of large mammals, especially ones which have large territories or are migratory.  Hopefully the goodwill created by this rigorous study will aid the survival of these magnificent felines.

Friday, July 20, 2018

'Toontime: The Big Joke

credit: Ed Wexler
Wackydoodle sez: He gots a bridge he can sell ya'll too!

And it is on the 'Merican people, buddy. The carpetbagger Trump got what he wanted for his business empire: free international publicity, an influx of federal tax dollars into his resort chain, and personal contact with his Kremlin mentor who can help him with his business plans in Russia. Of course Putin got what he wanted too--unprecedented influence over the domestic political process of the US. Washington hung Major AndrĂ© for acting as Benedict Arnold's contact when Arnold negotiated the surrender of West Point for $3.65 million in today's dollars. (British General Clinton already knew the layout of the fort.) Trump gave away what was supposed to be a free and fair election to Russian spies running a covert agitprop operation via the Internet. Yet Trump still occupies the White House, shamelessly courting dictators and autocrats around the globe, while apparently furthering his private interests. My, how the nation has enfeebled itself in less than three hundred years!  It takes a lot more than a 'yuge' nuclear arsenal to be the leader among nations.  But then what can you expect from an arrogant neurotic who believes the European Union is a "foe" of the United States? Ask this man:

Who is that man? Find out next week.

This week in the Russian Connection investigation sees another heart-stopping revelation from the New York Times: former personal lawyer Michael Cohen apparently taped his conversations with Mr.Yuge, including one in which they discussed paying off the former Playboy Bunny who committed sex with Hair Further--shudder the thought. A tape was seized by the FBI during an early morning raid on the Manhattan lawyer's office.  This evidence puts additional pressure on Cohen to cooperate with Robert Mueller's wide-ranging investigation of Trump's sleazy world. The tape also belies denials issued by Trump that he knew nothing of a hush money payment to Karen McDougal.  Trump's current fireman, Rudy 'Gouliani', told the press the tape does not prove Trump had prior knowledge of any payment to McDougal. She was paid $150,000 by the Enquirer magazine for the story of her tawdry affair. Since the tabloid supported Trump's candidacy, it sat on the story during the final days of his campaign.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

COTW: Draining the Swamp

Hair Further is not the first Repugnant president to come to Washington with a vow to "drain the swamp" on his lips.  By this phrase, laissez-faire proponents mean to cripple federal agencies by reducing their budgets and passing legislation emasculating their regulatory authority.  A case in point is what has happened to the Environmental Protection Agency. Basically a law enforcement agency, it has suffered a thirty percent budget cut.  It's budget is about the size it was in the 70's adjusted for inflation. [chart below] Imagine if the Pentagon were forced to accept a 30% cut in spending!  EPA is being hollowed out by reducing staff and leaving senior level jobs unfilled, or worse filled with industry shills. These charts tell the story:

Congress is set to appropriate $60 billion to buy out EPA staff, whose positions are to be eliminated.  Environmental law enforcement has become lax as a result.  Superfund enforcement responsible for cleaning up the nation's most severe pollution sites has fallen by 37%.  Some programs have been completely eliminated such as radon removal from schools, controlling contaminated run-off from roads and certification of lead removal contractors.  The agency under Scott Pruitt, the secret friend of industry,  has eliminated regulations that
  • Verified emissions from a company’s industrial expansion;
  • Blocked a potentially disastrous mining operation in Alaska’s Bristol Bay;
  • Required the tracking of methane emissions (overturned by the S. Court);  
  • Required data collection of emissions from oil and gas companies;
  • Monitored fracking;
  • Required companies to disclose hazardous chemicals they’re storing;
  • Protected tributaries of sensitive bodies of water;
  • Set tighter emissions standards for trucks;
  • Banned the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos;
  • The most egregious rollback--recommended the total repeal of the Clean     Power Plan

This administration anti-Earth, anti-science policies is epitomized by its decision to renege on the most significant achievement in history of anthropomorphic climate change--The Paris Accords.  References to climate change have been removed from the agency's website, and entire offices addressing the problem have been shut.  Pruitt has even created a blacklist of EPA employees who had worked or published on the issue.  "Draining the swamp" is actually coded language for selling out the country to the hugest corporate bidders while raking in the monetary rewards for themselves*.

*Scott Pruitt Pruitt before he resigned as administrator retained his own round-the-clock security detail, costing taxpayers $830,000. No EPA administrator has ever done that. He also installed a secure phone booth in his own office for $33,000, and special locks that cost $6,000. He spent at least $12,000 for flights around the country between March and May (each of which included a leg in Tulsa), $58,000 on chartered and military flights over the summer, and nearly $40,000 on a trip to Morocco to promote natural gas exports. His frequent first-class trips with his security detail have added more than $200,000 to that tally. He also issued a $120,000 no-bid contract to a Republican opposition research firm to target and track journalists critical of his tenure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gorillas on the Rise

US Person makes a sincere attempt to bring you, the reader, positive stories from the wild kingdom at a time when Nature is under severe onslaught by man.  One such story is that mountain gorillas in East Africa are making a comeback despite incredible adversity ranging from habitat lost and war to uncontrolled poaching. Numbers of Gorilla beringei beringei are up from 480 in 2010 to 604 in 2016 according to census figures. Together with scattered groups to the south of the Virunga Mountains they number around 1,000.  In 1981 they numbered just 242 individuals. They are the only great ape known to be increasing in number.  This fact is testament to the effectiveness of intensive conservation efforts, made famous by ethnologist, Diana Fossey. Their protection from marauding rebels and poachers have cost 170 rangers their lives.

Despite the encouraging increase in population, mountain gorillas are still classified as critically endangered by the ICUN.  A key element of successful gorilla conservation is the engagement of local humans who are impoverished, and often resort to hunting protected animals.  Fossey's fund works to provide better human access to water, food and security so that people can see they are benefiting from the continued presence of gorillas in their midst. DNA sampling has shown that thirteen individual gorillas presumed 'lost' dispersed and intermixed with others to keep their gene pool robust. People all over the Earth are inspired by the gorillas' tenacity, and willingness to respond to human concern for their well-being. We can all learn a lesson from the mountain gorilla's determined cling to life--never give up despite the odds.

 For mine are all the animals of the forests;
beasts by thousands on my mountains.
I know all the birds of the air; and whatever stirs 
in the plains , belongs to me.  Psalm 50: 10-11

And now the bad news.  Determined to prove their anti-nature, pro-exploitation credentials, House Repugnants have introduced 75 bills since Trump took office to gut the Endangered Species Act, the legislation directly responsible for saving our national bird, the Bald Eagle from extinction as well as 99% of other species listed under the Act  The bills would give states veto power over species gaining federal protection, remove the gray wolf from federal protection, and put a cap on legal fees associated with Endangered Species Act litigation.  Of course, Repugnants are not refusing to accept political donations for their work to gut the law. Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Sen. John Barrasso, Congressman Rob Bishop, and Sen. James Inhofe—have received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years from mining, oil and gas companies. Bishop wants to repeal the Act completely. Opponents of the Endangered Species Act have failed to cite any protection and recovery plan that causes economic harm, demonstrating that their opposition is only based on financial concerns, and NOT the public's best interest.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Toontime: This Week in the Russian Connection

credit: Jeff Darcy, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Wackydoodle sez: We doin' believe in evilution!

Regardless of how much people dislike him (Queen Elizabeth will not even provide him a state dinner), the fact that a majority of voting 'Mericans selected Mr. Yuge cannot be ignored.  The party of Lincoln has sunk to a new low.

Still, the latest news from Robert Mueller's office is stunning.  An indictment of twelve Russian spies on Friday details the efforts of twelve Russian military intelligence officers (GDU) who created fictitious personas to diseminate hacked Democratic Party communications to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Russia began targeting Clinton campaign volunteers and employees at least as early as March 2016; Dutch intelligence says Russian hackers began their efforts to penetrate top Democratic communications in 2014. A Russian hacking operation, known as Guiciffer 2.0, was in contact with a man named Robert Stone who was himself in contact with senior members of Trump's campaign. Donald Trump told reporters on July 27, 2016, that he had no idea who was responsible for hacking email accounts belonging to Democratic National Committee officials. That is an outright lie;  Trump's biggest malfeasence in the Russian Connection affair has been his cover-up of the Russian  operation through vehement, repeated public statements denying the existence of the entire conspiracy--the so-called "witch hunt".  Far from "making America great again", his actions are a profound betrayal of what remains of decaying American democracy.  Yet incredibly, the carpetbagger Trump is scheduled to meet Monday with the former spy behind it all--Valdimir Valdimirovich Putin.

credit: Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
BJ Idonwanna sez: Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake...
The mischief springs from the power which the monied interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining...and unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away....Andrew Jackson, 1837

Friday, July 13, 2018

Columbia Creates Largest Tropical Park

Green Kudos go to Columbia this week for creating the world's largest tropical rain forest national park, Serrania del Chiribiquete.  After expansion of more than fifty percent, it is now the size of Northern Ireland or 10,810 sq. miles, and is home to more than 3,000 species.  Those include the iconic jaguar, manatee and vulnerable woolly monkeys, and three hundred species of birds. Its biodiversity springs from its remote location and the intersection of four distinct geographic regions.  UNESCO has declared the park a world heritage site in recognition of the park's diverse ecosystems. [photo] Some of the forest's indigenous people are uncontaminated by modernity, living in voluntary isolation. Impressive rock art adorns some of the park's cliff faces. It also contains areas with the highest deforestation rates in Columbia. Conservationists hope the national park designation will at least slow the rate of tree loss.  President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed the UNESCO declaration, the ninth for Columbia.  Santos promised to add $525 million to the country's conservation budget.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

COTW: Plutographics

Instead of attempting to foist the myopic Dow Jones on the public as a measure of the health of their society, the corporate mass media (CMM) ought to be displaying an index such as this, from the Institute of Innovation in Social Policy, on their nightly propaganda blasts:

As a discerning reader can see, its been fairly flat since 1970.  It pales in comparison with the nation's growth in GDP over the same time period:

Only in the United States is societal health equated with capitalistic expansion that in realty only truly benefits the upper 1% of citizens in terms of income and net worth.  Here, in stark comparison with the rest of the developed world the top quintile make eleven times more money than those 'Mericans in the poorest fifth. In Japan, for example the top quintile only earns 4 times as much.  Concentration of wealth is at a level not experience since the Gilded Age at the turn of the last century.  The technological boom of the '80s and '90s benefited the already rich the most, leaving a shrunken middle class scrambling for jobs being eliminated or transferred overseas to low-wage zones.  Consequently, working people are mired in increasing debt, increased cost for necessities, and with fewer and fewer health benefits provided by their employers.  What the rich got was a massive tax break from successive administrations of both parties.

The Economic Policy Institute said of the 90's decade: "An average middle class family's income rose 9.2% after inflation...but they also spent 6.8% more time at work to reap it. Without increased earnings from wives, the average middle-class family's income would have risen only 3.8% over the decade.  Middle class families held 2.8% of the total growth in stock-market holdings...but accounted for 38.8% of the rise in household debt."  Downhill since Nixon, indeed.  A fundamental shift in national policies favoring the "Money Power" is long overdue.  It can begin with a wealth tax to fund Medicare for All, restore fiscal sustainability to Social Security, and provide subsidized higher education or skill training for those who want it.  Socialism?  You betcha!

Sunday, July 08, 2018

When Your Boss Makes You Hated

credit: Sandy Huffaker
BC Idonwanna sez: Orange man speak with forked tongue!

Sarah Huckabee Sanders may actually be a nice person outside of work, US Person prefers to think. But fronting for one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history has its hazards. One of those is being refused service in a DC metro restaurant.  Of course 'Merican incivility to fellow 'Mericans are stories of history, but this president seems to bring out the worst in people. Perhaps it is his penchant for insulting his detractors via world-wide social media, in which he constantly indulges with impunity. A single example: In Iowa during the 2016 campaign the future president told a large rally, “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK?”  Too bad his staff have to suffer for his rampant arrogance and lies. US Person's advice: don't take your family to a restaurant named, "Red Hen"; try take-out next time, Ms Sanders!  This is what happens when the mob embraces a crass, populist demagogue with fascist inclinations:

Wackydoodle sez:  Buy two, its good for the 'conomy!

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Saws Go Silent in Bialoweiza

Bialoweiza Forest is what remains of a primeval forest straddling the border of Poland and Belarus.  A European court halted logging in the forest, home to wildlife that has disappeared from the rest of Europe, in May.  But before the saws were silenced, loggers cut 190,000 cubic meters of wood in 2017; equal to around 160,000-180,000 trees affecting an area of about 1,900 hectares. The harvest was 400% of the planned amount. It is noteworthy that this more downed timber in any year since Poland emerged from Soviet communism.  The forest will take decades to recover from the onslaught. [photo: Greenpeace Poland]

Activists are now demanding that the national park status that protects part of the forest be dramatically expanded to include the entire forest.  They are concerned that the government, strapped for cash, will again approve logging especially in areas that are no longer pristine old growth forest.  Europe's highest tribunal found that the government's own documents showed that logging was a bigger threat to the forest existence than that posed by infesting beetles.  The bark beetle outbreak is cyclical and probably exacerbated by climate warming.  Bialoweiza is the last old-growth lowland forest in Europe.  Its scale, pristine areas and rare wildlife such as lynx, wolves and bison (bears were wiped out decades ago) make it exceptionally qualified for complete conservation. [below: Bison bonasus bonasus]

Currently the national park in Poland only covers around 10,500 hectares.  Belarus protects 20 times more than that in a biosphere reserve covering 216,200 hectares.  150,069 hectares is protected as a national park.  The Minister of Forestry who authored the logging policy was sacked shortly after the adverse ruling from the EU.  But his replacement appears to also be pro-logging, after a meeting with timber representatives in which he promised park status would not be extended.  Biologists were not invited to the meeting according to Greenpeace.  Poland's forest management agency appears to be another victim of regulatory capture.

New Candidates for Malaria Vaccine

One of the world's major killer disease that strikes mostly children living in tropical regions, malaria, is not controlled by an effective vaccine.  An estimated 400,000 humans die annually of malaria--mostly in the tropics.  Giant international drug companies are loath to spend the same amount as they do on cancer research or developing new analgesics to fund the development of an effective anti-malarial vaccine.  The reason may be the potential market for such a drug: mostly developing nations whose citizens are poor.

Social Darwinism aside, there is some progress being made on finding an anti-malarial vaccine. Researchers from Australia have shown that children in Papua, New Guinea who have higher levels of Plasmodium falciparum antibodies specific to a short amino acid sequence of the parasite are protected against clinical or severe malaria.  This antigen would be a good target for further vaccine  say the study authors in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, Infection and Immunity.  The amino acid sequence known as ICAM1 is critical to P. falciparum's toxicity since it allows the parasite to bind to the brain's tiniest blood vessels, called microvasculature.  There it remains undetected by the immune system causing cerebral damage by blocking blood flow and inflammation eventually leading to death of the host. [photo of P. falciparum gametocyte stages] The study followed 187 children 1-3 years old, measuring antibody responses to the ICAM sequence for sixteen months.  Children with antibody responses were 37 less likely to develop severe malaria.

The most effective vaccine currently undergoing trials is RTS,S/ASO1.  Third stage trials began in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2009.  In children 5-17 months old four doses of the drug reduced malaria cases by 39%; severe cases were reduced by 31%.  The European Medicines Agency issued a positive opinion on the drug's risk/benefit balance in 2015.  Despite trial efforts in multiple countries including the US, there is currently no licensed malaria vaccine.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Unethical Pruitt Leaves EPA

In a gift to the nation and the world, Hair Further announced on his personal media platform, Twitter, that Scott Pruitt will be leaving the EPA.  Pruitt cited the "sizable toll" that the controversy over his unethical behavior in office has taken on himself and his family. He was being investigated for his use of government funds for personal travel and office improvements. He also raised eyebrows when he used obscure provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act to give pay raises to two of his aides. By the UK Guardian's count, Pruitt was under fourteen separate federal investigations.  Earlier this week a whistle blower revealed that Pruitt kept a secret calendar of his meetings with industry representatives, and asked staff members to use their personal credit cards for his hotel bookings.  Several staff members have resigned in protest against Pruitt's malfeasance.  The government's personnel office that protects whistle blowers, Office of Special Counsel launched its own investigation of EPA staff complaints of retaliation by the agency's chief.

Mr. Yuge, ethically challenged himself, continued to praise his appointment's performance after the resignation. However, other party members expressed their relief at Pruitt's departure, one congressman opining, "He [Pruitt] was a disaster and an embarrassment from day one, and the country is far better off without him.” One EPA official expressed privately, “People are so done with these folks. We wanted and waited for some adults to show up. But the relentless tide of bullshit from Pruitt and his cronies is tough to deal with.” US Person thinks whether the agency will depart from Pruitt's extremist brand of anti-regulation is questionable. Pruitt's Washington insider deputy will take over the agency on an interim basis. In the first six months of Trump's 'administration' the lead enforcement agency for the protection of the environment has collected 60% less in civil fines from polluters than in the same time frame under Presidents Bush and Obama.  It has also initiated fewer civil and criminal cases.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

COTW: The Party of Non-Voters

Contrary to popular belief 'Merica has a viable third political party: the party of non-voters, and its growing. This condition has led pundits to remark on the legitimacy of elected officials and the rise in power of unelected office holders such as judges, central bankers or transnational bureaucracies. In 2001, we watched the Supreme Court determine the outcome of a presidential election despite a popular vote count to the contrary. The "democracy deficit" worsens when a disillusioned segment of the population stops participating.* According to statistics these are the less educated and less affluent.  The chart [above] shows that  voter participation in the last century hovered between 50-60%, substantially below the participation levels of the 19th century. No coincidence that some of the lowest participation rates occurred during the Depression era.  In 1996 the 38.7% of the bottom fifth voted versus 72.6% of the top fifth. In the hung election of 2000 only 49% of eligible 'Mericans voted. Non college-educated white males constitute 55% of the electorate. They are substantially those who voted for billionaire Donald Trump and against feminist Hillary Clinton.

Comparison of US voter participation with that in other developed republics is not flattering.  It is among the lowest. [chart below] What has taken the place of politics in the US is a idolatrous belief in the marketplace as the efficient means of human governance.   Absurd as it sounds, oil tycoon H.L Hunt published a book in the 50's advocating that citizens' voting power be measured by the amount of taxes they paid.  This conflation of democracy with markets--the descendant of medieval carnivals--is dangerous in the extreme.  As Senator Bill Bradley said during his candidacy for President, "failure to understand that democracy and capitalism are separate parts of the American dream, and keeping that dream depends on preventing one from corrupting the other."  It would do well for 'Mericans to reflect on their decaying democracy and the rise of plutocracy as they celebrate their nation's founding this July 4, 2018, Anno Domini.

*Phillips K., Wealth & Democracy 2002, pp 413-417.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Toontime: 'Merica, Love It or Leave It

There is something inherently undemocratic about a powerful court--they are not called "the Supremes" for nothing--in which the judges are not elected but appointed for life terms, and absent extreme malfeasance in office, are beyond removal from office.  The Repugnants have successfully altered the ideological bias of the court through successive conservative administrations making appointments; something that has not been accomplished since FDR's unsuccessful effort to "pack" the court with justice sympathetic to his New Deal legislation.  The court's conservative ideology will be on display perhaps for the majority of this century.  The plutocracy's creation of a legal bulwark against progressive mass movements goes a long way to explain why there is so little fundamental change in the course of this nation.

Land of the Free?