Friday, November 30, 2018

'Toontime: Individual I

credit: Rick McKee
Now that he has been named in court documents with an official alias, it is reasonable to conclude that "Individual I" is the central person of interest in the Russian Connection investigation.  He is portrayed in Robert Mueller's court filings as the central figure involved in efforts to make a deal on a Moscow tower development well beyond the date in which he publicly stated during his campaign that he had "no business dealings with Russia." He kept in close contacts with his agents who were reaching out to Moscow, and to Wikileaks, all the way up to the day before Wikileaks released the DNC emails hacked by Russian agents.

Two bombshells went off this week: Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was back in federal court to plead guilty to more federal crimes, Thursday. Those crimes included lying to Congress about his business contacts with Russians on behalf of Trump. He kept Trump family members and “Individual I” informed of his negotiations. "Individual I" responded to the damaging development by attacking Cohen as a “weak individual”, and “not very smart”. Cohen has now agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation. His previous pleas were made without benefit of such an agreement. Cohen has sat for 70 hours of interrogation by investigators, and he represents a politically existential threat to Individual I, who was also contact with right-wing Trump supporter, Roger Stone. Stone was told by Jerome Corsi, who knows co-founder Julian Assange, that Wikileaks planned to release stolen emails in an “October surprise”. Corsi also knew Stone was in regular contact with Individual 1. According to the WaPo, Stone spoke to Individual I the day after he got the inside information from Corsi.

The second bombshell: Paul Manafort was supposed to be cooperating with the Special Counsel pursuant to an agreement. However, Robert Mueller filed court papers Friday alleging that Manfort repeatedly lied to investigators since he entered into the plea deal. Prosecutors at a court hearing said they are weighing charging Manafort with new crimes, as well as retrying him on federal charges that resulted in a hung jury this summer.  Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud charges in August. The federal district court judge presiding over Manafort’s sentencing set a tentative court date of March 5th. Investigators will file a detailed explanation of Manafort’s mendacity on December 7th.

The revelations from Cohen and Corsi come significantly after Individual I provided written answers to interrogatories submitted to the White House by Mr. Mueller. The potential for contradiction is obvious, but his latest front man, Rudi ‘Gouly’ Gouliani told reporters Trump's answers are consistent with Cohen’s testimony.  Supporters claim all of these developments are just smoke, with no hard evidence of criminal offenses committed by Individual I, but this new information definitely provides context and motive for the widespread allegations of lying, money laundering, and illegal campaign activity. As one House Democrat put it, they want to "cross the Ts and dot the Is" on Trump's continued obfuscation of his lucrative Russian connection, and his obstruction of justice. Certainly, a president beholding to the authoritarian leader of the country’s most dangerous competitor is no security risk in which to be allegedly framed. Enemies of Trump may not be able to muster 67 votes in the Senate for his conviction--unless he fires Robert Mueller--but it may become politically untenable for continuing his regime. After all 'Tricky" Dick, impeached by the House, was not convicted in the Senate, either.

Wackydoodle sez: Must be kin folks!
BC Idowanna sez: Orange man fake fascist!

Spider Zombies

Spiders are not usually considered social creatures.  Usually you find them alone--spinning their webs or searching for food. But there are about twenty-five social spider species worldwide. One, Anelosimus eximius [photo below] lives in the Ecuadorian Amazon where it lives in large colonies sharing prey and parental duties with colony members. That is until a colony member is victimized by the newly discovered Zatypota wasp. This wasp has a uniquely gruesome method of reproduction: an adult female lays an egg on the spider's abdomen where the larvae hatches and feeds on the spider's body fluids growing larger and slowly taking over the spider's body and controlling its behavior. The zombie-spider leaves its colony--something a normal Anelosimus would never do--to weave a completely unusual cocoon-like web. There it obliviously waits to be killed and consumed by the larvae. The wasp larvae then enters the cocoon built by its deceased slave were it metamorphoses into a fully grown wasp. Gruesome is perhaps an understatement.

There are other examples of wasp parasites on spiders, but these usually involve a solitary species like orb spiders, and the parasitically induced behavior are within the normal behavioral repertoire. But Zaytypota causes spider behavior completely outside the normal. Researchers do not know how the wasp hijacks the spider's brain and body, but suspect that hormones are injected into the spider's system causing it to function differently.  Zaytypota has been observed victimizing large spider colonies where it can be assured of a stable supply of potential zombies.  Nature can be unforgiving in the struggle for survival.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

COTW: The Sixth Extinction

There have been six great extinction events in the Earth's 4.5 billion year history.  The most renowned is the extinction of the dinosaurs at 66 million years ago. Scientists think this was the result of a massive asteroid strike and its aftermath.  Another occurred more recently at the end of the Pleistocene 13,000 to 8,000 BCE, when the Earth lost most of its megafauna such as mammoths, probably due to climate change and human predation.  In terms of the number of organisms lost, the greatest extinction is the Permian-Triassic, or the Great Dying, that affected primarily marine organisms and terrestrial invertibrates, 252 million years ago. During this extinction event ocean surface temperatures reached 40℃; it was simply too hot for anything to survive.  Earth lost some 90% of it's species.

Extinction is not just ancient history.  There is another great extinction taking place right now, and this chart from the Center for Biological Diversity shows the grim fact:

The current crisis in the natural world is fundamentally different because this event is almost entirely caused by human activity that is driving habitat loss and global warming.  In the past 500 years there have been known extinctions of 1000 species from passenger pigeons to woodland bison.  The truth is no one knows exactly how many species have been lost.  Many have disappeared before science was able to identify them.  In the US alone a leading wildlife expert estimates there are 14 to 35 thousand endangered species.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Mountain Gorillas Increase

it's all about family, credit WWF
Conservation success stories are becoming fewer in the age of the Sixth Great Extinction. But there are stories that bring hope and spur more efforts to save animals endangered by man's abuse of his only home in the universe. One of these is the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) living in the highlands of central Africa. After years of effort midst warfare and violent poaching--six rangers were killed in April--the population of these peaceful, intelligent primates has increased by 25% since 2010 in the Virunga Massif.

Conservationist and UN Ambassador,Sir Richard Attenborough, who first visited the gorillas in 1979, said of his first encounter, “There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than any other animal I know-–they are so like us.” He praised the work of conservation groups which have succeeded in bringing our relative back from the brink of extinction. The new survey was undertaken in difficult terrain conditions by 12 teams of surveyors covering 2,000 km² of mountainous forest in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Virunga's population has risen to 604 from 480 counted in the previous survey of 2010. Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable national park contains the remaining mountain gorilla population; in 2012 over 400 gorillas were counted there. The increase in numbers can be directly attributed to human protection and care, but wire snares set by locals to capture bush meat still pose a deadly threat to gorillas. The survey team destroyed 380 snares including one that contained a dead gorilla--truly a horrible and painful death.

Another recent survey found that there are double the number of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) than previously estimated. There are now estimated to be 360,000 of this subspecies, or 99% of all extant gorillas. This population has fallen by 20% in eight years due to threats summarized by researchers as guns, germs and greed.

Three Countries Block Antarctic Sanctuary

China, Russia and Norway have blocked an effort to create the world's largest wildlife sanctuary in Antartica. Twenty-two other countries were ready to approve the designation, but it needed unanimous approval in talks at Hobart, Tasmania. The sanctuary would have been the size of Sudan or 1.8 million km² giving all of Antarctica's unique wildlife a chance to survive. WWF says that 70% of the world's remaining wilderness exists in just five countries. The designation would have also helped soak up some of the carbon dioxide produced by combustion that is warming our planet catastrophically. A spokesperson for Greenpeace says that thirty percent of our oceans need to be protected to insure habitat, and thereby protect food sources. Less than 10% is now protected from damage. Unfortunately the historic opportunity to reverse this deadly trend was lost to filibustering and obstruction intended only to prevent unanimity. These countries appear to be more interested in expanding exploitative commercial fishing than giving the planet a change to recover from 300 years of industrial pollution according to observers.The Antarctic Ocean Commission under Russia's chairmanship in 2016 made progress when the Commission declared the Ross Sea would be protected, but Russia has failed to enforce the agreement pursuing instead opportunities to expand fishing in the Southern Ocean. The failed deal would have protected the Weddell and parts of the biologically rich Antarctic Peninsula. The next chance to protect Antarctica's seas will come at the UN which is negotiating a global ocean treaty. Those negotiation could reach a conclusion by 2020

Monday, November 26, 2018

Taylor Energy Order to Clean Up Act

US Person posted recently about an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that has the potential to be bigger than the Deepwater Horizon disaster. {30.10.18}A production platform that capsized after a submarine landslide has been leaking for fourteen years. The Coast Guard has now demanded that Taylor Energy Co., owner of the OCS lease, to clean up the spill or face fines of $40,000 day according to the Washington Post. The platform was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan in 2004; it has been leaking oil at an estimated rate of 700 barrels a day since then. That estimate is based on analysis by independent experts hired by the Justice Department for pending litigation against the Interior Department. Previous government estimates based on company supplied data put the amount at 55 barrels per day. Deepwater Horizon which was destroy by a blowout and subsequent fire spewed an estimated 4 million barrel of crude into the Gulf. The spill so far from the Taylor Energy ruins is now estimated at 1.5 to 3.5 million barrels.

Taylor was instructed to present a clean up plan by November 9th. It presented a plan on the 8th, but it was rejected by Interior in favor of a plan submitted by another contractor. Taylor has plugged eight of the 28 wells once connected to the platform that was pushed off its moorings by a landslide. Oil sheens are visible on the surface for miles. At one point they were mistaken as emanating from the Deepwater Horizon site to the north by disaster monitors. It was these oil slicks that lead environmentalists to the re-discovery of the leaks Taylor Energy sought to conceal or minimize. As reported by the Post, "[the] spill was hidden for years as the company and the Coast Guard declined to inform the public that it existed. Environmental groups that monitor the gulf were unaware that the broken wells were leaking for six years — until the catastrophic BP Deepwater oil spill in April 2010." Environmental groups brought suit against the government and Taylor for the concealment, which they allege is inconsistent with the provisions of the Clean Water Act, which provides for citizen participation in water policy.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

'Toontime: An Alternative Modernity?

credit: Jeffery Koterba
Wackydoodle sez: Too much leftover turkey.

Another minion of the malodorous misrule that is the Trump regime is prepared to cut a deal with Robert Mueller's unending quest to lay bare the Russian Connection. Jerome Corsi, a confidant of Robert Stone, the right-wing operative and Trump supporter, told the AP Friday that he is in plea negotiations with the Special Counsel. Investigators are zeroing in on Stone's connections to Wikileaks, which published the DNC's hacked emails.  The material was provided by Russian intelligence, according to US intelligence's assessment of what occurred during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Stone, and other campaign associates of Trump, are alleged to have had advanced knowledge of Wikileaks' plan to publicly leak the private communications. Stone, however, has publicly denied any insider knowledge of the release. Corsi recently said his plea negotiations have "blown-up", so that he fully expects to be indicted by the Special Counsel.

credit: John Day
BC Idonwanna sez: Me like'm high on hog, no turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

COTW: Green Energy America

This chart from Visual Capitalist, shows the percentage of power generated from renewable resources in each state.  The red states are red because they are still burning fossil fuels to produce energy.  For example, look at the coal belt in the Appalachian and Ohio valley region. The blue states at the county's northern corners are appropriately blue because they use predominantly renewable resources for electric power generation:

The chart shows that there is a long way to go before the US reaches a point where it can genuinely declare itself to be "energy independent".

Saturday, November 17, 2018

"Toontime: Killer Prince, Friend of 'Merica

credit: Pat Bagley
BC Idonwanna sez:  Me like fake news, not Trump news!
Calling Saudi Arabia a "spectacular ally" on the day the enemy of the people--the press--reports the CIA has concluded the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman ordered the murder of a journalist does not do much for Mr. Yuge's already shredded credibility.  The CIA has told Trump that it has high confidence in the accuracy of its conclusion based on multiple intelligence resources, including an intercepted telephone call from the Prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman telling journalist Jamal Khashoggi it was safe for him to go to the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents he needed for his marriage.

Khashoggi was murder with an overdose of sedative by a hit squad in the consulate. Then his body was dismembered and removed from the premises. Turkish officials had placed a listening device in the consulate, and turned over the recording of Khashoggi's murder to western ntelligence.  The CIA's conclusion is unlikely to alter Salman's accession to the throne in an authoritarian monarchy where he already controls down to the minutest details, according to the intelligence agency. One suggested motive for the assassination is that Prince Salman considered Khashoggi a security risk because of his close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Saudi Arabia has announced it will seek the death penalty for those convicted in the murder, but as one US official said, that event "could happen overnight or take twenty years". According to the Kingdom's public prosecutor office, eleven people have been charged with involvement in the murder.

credit: Petar Pismestrovic

Meanwhile, when Mr Yuge is not praising brutal fuedal monarchs, he is berating the Russian Connection investigation, writing that Robert Mueller's staff, "has gone absolutely nuts", adding they "are a disgrace to the nation".  Mr. Yuge has recently been sequestered with his lawyers as they answer some 140-odd questions submitted to him by the Special Counsel's office.   Mr. Yuge's move to replace Jeff Sessions with a loyalist is already drawing bi-partisan criticism and a lawsuit from the state of Maryland.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Persecuting the Wolf, Again

Washington wolf, credit: C. Monnette
Repugnants are not good loosers. They lost control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term, so how do they vent their ire?; By pushing through a bill to remove legal protection for the grey wolf.  Not bills on taxes or immigrants, but persecuted wolf.  Is that the epitome of pettiness?  US Person thinks so.  A vote to remove the wolf's protection under the Endangered Species Act in the lower forty-eight states is set to occur as early as Friday.  The lame-duck session will last for the month of December, minus the holidays.

The chairman of the House Rules Committee which put the bill on the agenda said it has bipartisan support especially in the west. Not all western representatives are enthusiastic about removing the wolf's protection. Wolf populations are just beginning to recover in most west coast states. Currently the US Forest Service is under legal obligation to protect wolf dens and habitat from human activity such as logging and grazing. Still wolves are killed in significant numbers for acts of predation on livestock. {09/30/2016}; {09/17/2017} Livestock owners and their lobby groups have pressured Repugnant representatives to remove protection for the predators, which are supported by "activist litigants" who "used the judicial system to circumvent sound science" to restore protections under the ESA removed in 2013. Of course these subsidized ranchers neglect to mention that scientific evidence supports the continued protection of grey wolves from persecution; their respect for the judicial system is such that they also want the bill stripping wolves of their legal lifeline exempted from judicial review.

The Center for Biological Diversity says wolves are missing from 90% of their historic range in the lower forty-eight states. The US Fish & Wildlife is currently studying the status of wolf recovery and could recommend again removing grey wolves from endangered status.; The Center sued the agency recently for failing to provide a nationwide management plan for the species. If you want to see wolves given a decent chance to recover from three hundred years of human persecution, write or call your representative in Congress and tell them to give wolves a chance to survive into the 21st century.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

COTW: It Is Climate Change, Stupid!

Hair Further was quick to blame bad forest management--a capitalist code phrase for logging--as the reason for California's devastating wildfires.  He was just as quickly contradicted by professional firefighters.  The president of the International Association of Firefighters said his twits on the subject were "reckless and insulting" to firefighters and victims of the flames.  The facts are that the deadly Camp Fire that wiped out the town of Paradise Valley started in a forest that was thinned by fire ten years ago.  The Woolsey Fire that has devastated the affluent living in Malibu, started on a hillside, not a forest.  If he must bloviate on social media, he owes it to the country to do it accurately.

Three factors are contributing to the intensity of the fires:  One is that California is tinder dry.  The state is still recovering from a historic drought, and Santa Ana winds, which occur every year, are blowing strong.  Second, the fire season is now 78 days longer on average than in the past due to climate change. A long-term trend of warmer summers and drier falls has helped desiccate California's vegetation to kindling.  Third, human habitation is increasingly encroaching on wild lands where fires begin. 

This chart shows the largest wildfires in California's history.  Unfortunately there are more giant fires to come due to the factors mentioned.  Gov. Jerry Brown called this fire season, the "new normal":

The Mendocino Complex, formed when two fires merged, has burned 440 square miles of Northern California.  The Camp fire is the state's most deadly having killed 58 people as fire raged through the small town in the middle of forest land.  Some were burned in their vehicles trying to escape the inferno. Seven thousand structures were destroyed. There are still missing persons in the hundreds.  The state spent $505 million fighting fires in 2017.  That amount will certainly be exceeded this year. Harvard researchers have concluded that by 2050 the number of wildfires in the US will double.

As can be seen from this chart the trend in the size of wild fires is also increasing over time.  Think about that Mr. Yuge the next time you deny the effects of climate change:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The End of the War to End Wars

the advent of air power--SPAD XIII
Historians still dispute the causes of the first great war in Europe. The results are indisputable. The war was particularly deadly for both combatants and civilians since the adversaries first used mechanized equipment on an industrial scale to kill en mass. The means descended into the horrible use of chemical weapons. An estimated 16 million people died in the conflict. The war to end war did not accomplish that laudable goal; in fact, historians think the ensuing peace that imposed ruinous financial burdens on Germany set the stage for the rise of fascism; barely a generation passed before conflagration erupted again. Empires fell. A generation was traumatized for life. The armistice that brought peace to the continent on November, 11th one hundred years ago was remembered across Europe this Sunday.

in the mud at Passchendaele
Of course a superficial review of the historical events leading to war will conclude that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by a Serbian terrorist precipitated conflict. But it was the web of military alliances that drew nations into belligerence. Leaders had come to accept inevitable war as a legitimate means of achieving national ends.  The continent was divided into two camps of major powers, the Triple Entente of Britain, France and Russia, and the Triple Alliance of German, Austria-Hungary and Italy.  When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia a month after the assassination, the other powers were required to come to the aid of their allies by treaty. German declared war on France, August 3, 1914. When Germany advanced on Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany. 

A less apparent causative factor was an intense arms race between Britain and Germany in which Germany intended to create a blue water navy that could rival the world's leading naval power. Kaiser Wilhelm II began building battleships of immense tonnage and firepower in 1898. Britain's economy relied on sea-borne trade, so any challenge to its navy's hegemony was viewed with alarm, provoking a response in kind. Developments in technology such as steam turbines and large-bore guns mounted in turrets made older vessels obsolete.  By 1906 Britain gained a technological advantage with its dreadnought class of battleships. Unable to keep up with the spending of the world's largest industrial economy of the time, Germany turned its attention to the army. The damage done to relations between the two countries by the naval arms race was irreparable.
industrial capacity was key to victory

Deteriorating family relations may have also had a causative role.  The three emperors, George V, Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II were first cousins who knew each other well.  The oldest grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm nevertheless  developed an antipathy towards everything British probably due to a difficult relationship with his mother. A historian wrote of his conflicted attitude toward the British: From the outset, the half-German side of him was at war with the half-English side. He was wildly jealous of the British, wanting to be British, wanting to be better at being British than the British were, while at the same time hating them and resenting them because he never could be fully accepted by them." While she was alive, Queen Victoria attempted to reconcile the cousins, but when she died relations between the branches of her extended royal family became more strained. A recent book reviewer wrote, the events leading up to the conflict are "a study in the envy, insincerity, festering rancor and muddle that only families can manage". Unlike ordinary families, however, the royal rancor had tragic geopolitical consequences for the world.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trump Rejected: Federal Judge Blocks Keystone Pipeline

Judge Brian Morris of the Federal District Court of Montana ruled that the federal government failed to account for the pipeline's contribution to the world's climate disaster, saying it "simply discarded" the significant effects.  The EPA estimated in February that construction of the pipeline would contribute an extra one billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  Hair Further lamely labeled the decision "politcal" and a "disgrace".  Judge Morris is an Obama appointee.  Citing Supreme Court precedent, the judge wrote, “An agency cannot simply disregard contrary or inconvenient factual determinations that it made in the past, any more than it can ignore inconvenient facts when it writes on a blank slate.”

The 1179 mile large diameter pipe would carry 800,00 per day south to refiners in the Gulf Coast region.  Exploiters have typically emphasized the minuscule economic benefit in the form of jobs, while turning a blind eye to the environmental damage the additional burning of fossil fuel will cause.  The legal problem for the regime is a detailed, fact-based explanation, in light of contrary findings by the previous administration, for reversal of the previous policy denying State Department permission for the international pipe's construction.  Two days after he took office, Mr. Yuge issued a fiat reversing Obama's decsion against the project, elevating the project to a political cause celebre, a symbol of 'Making America Great Again (MAGA). What his decision making on the project does is isolate the United States from the international community of nations who have signed the Paris Climate Accords, and indeed reject mainstream scientific thinking on climate change. The Trump regime has sought the reversal of 76 rules related to protecting the environment.

Experts think that the impact of the pipeline on the nation's economy is out of proportion to the political upheaval created over its permiting.  The pipeline will primarily benefit Canada's oil shale operators by giving them an outlet to coastal refineries for their land-product.  Their product is low-grade crude which requires huge amounts of water and fuel to process.  The State Department estimated that 42,000 temporary jobs for two years — about 3,900 of them in construction and the rest through indirect support, like food service — but only 35 permanent jobs would be created. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

'Toontime: Session Over

The longer the Russian Connection investigation continues, the more Hair Further resembles 'Tricky' Dick Nixon.  Nixon, readers may recall, fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox [photo] who was investigating the Watergate break-in by former FBI and CIA agents hired by the White House.  Hair Further has gone one better and fired his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from overseeing Robert Mueller's activities on Wednesday.  In his place he has inserted a loyalist minion, Mathew Whitaker, who now has authority to control the scope of Mueller's investigation, prohibit the publication of Mueller's investigative report, or even fire him.   Democrats warn that Whitaker will try to slowly “strangle” the Russian Connection investigation by cutting its funding or limiting it in other ways. “It is, in effect, a slow-motion Saturday Night Massacre,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee, referring to Cox's termination. “The reason that they are doing this in a slow-motion way is to avoid that uproar and uprising.”  Democrats have objected to Whitaker's appointment on ethical grounds, citing potential conflicts of interest.  Whitaker was the campaign chairman for an investigation witness who unsuccessfully ran for office in Iowa.  The decision to fire Sessions will certainly add impetusl to the effort to impeach Mr. Yuge in the House of Representatives, now controlled by Democrats.  The new Congress begins in January.

The announcement of Session's firing came during a chaotic press conference in which the would-be dictator publicly chastised a reporter from CNN for exercising his First Amendment rights.  Jim Acosta refused to release the microphone to a female White House aide while asking the man follow-up questions.  Hair Further called him a "rude", "terrible person" and suggested he should be fired for touching the female aide.   After the conference, the White House yanked Acosta's press credentials, drawing protests from across the Fifth Estate.  Histrionics aside, Mr. Yuge should remember his history:  firing Cox did not work out well for Nixon.  The firing intensified efforts in Congress to widen and continue the investigation of the President's high crimes and misdemeanors, headed by Cox's replacement, Leon Jarowski.  Nixon was eventually forced to resign in disgrace after the House voted for a bill of impeachment.

 credit: Marion Kamenski
Wackdoodle sez: "You're fired!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

COTW: A House Divided by Race

The midterm election results are in, and its a mixed bag: Democrats now control the lower chamber while Repugnants increased their majority by three seats in the upper chamber.  Turnout was heavy with the largest percentage of eligible voters participating in a mid-term election since 1970 at 47%  These charts, courtesy of the BBC tell the story, or as US Person's barber is fond of saying, "res ipsa loquitor":

It is not because some white people are greedy, Mr. Yuge.  The reason for the nation’s disunity is some white people like those in the charts above still cling to the foundation myth of 13 English colonies immersed in the dirty business of slavery: white supremacy.*  But it is evident from your political rhetoric you already know that.
*Horne, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism p 47, 157-59, 190-191 (2018)  Horne’s thesis is that policy makers in London and colonies consciously chose to employ a “synthetic whiteness” to counter the threat of rebellion and social unrest in colonial settlements outnumbered by slaves of imported African blacks and displaced indigenous Americans.  Ethnicity and religion became secondary considerations to combating disruption of lucrative trade made possible by slave labor.  The concept of “white” was therefore expanded to include immigrants from Iberia to the Urals.  America’s “unpardonable sin” was committed in the name of profit. 

The profits generated by the slave trade, notably conducted from ports in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, were astronomical-- reaching a 1600% return. In turn the southern colonies' sugar, cotton and tobacco industries depended almost entirely on enslaved Africans.  Indentured Europeans were too expensive.  Deregulation of the British slave trade after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 insured the accumulation of wealth generated by slavery was held in private hands, and not the crown's.  But frequent slave rebellions in the Caribbean drove many slave-owning entrepreneurs north to the mainland, particularly to Carolina.   Thus, it may fairly be said that the development of capitalism in North America has its roots mired in slavery.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Is It the End for a Giant of the Forest?

Conservationists are increasingly concerned for the fate of a giant Peruvian rain forest tree, the shihuahuaco. (Dipteryx sp.)  A slow growing tree that can reach 60m high and a diameter of 1m over the course of its 700 year life span.  Logging pressure on this tree puts in the same class of mahogany and ceder as  threatened by human exploitation; the wood is valued for appearance and durability.  However, mahogany and cedar have both received legal protection under CITES which Peru joined in 1975 and is still a member of the international convention.  So far, the shihuahuaco remains unprotected.  Peru's rules covering at risk flora say classification should be updated every four years.  The last update was in 2006.

This tree is part of the framework of the forest.  Its crown and girth provide shade and shelter.  When one falls, a significant gap in the canopy is created.  Birds and bats, including the giant and increasingly rare harpy eagle nest in it. [photo]  Agotis live among its buttress roots. Human residents of the forests collect seeds for consumption.  When toasted, they taste like a combination of cashews and peanuts.  The bark is used for purple die and medicinal purposes.  These traditional uses may be the tree's salvation from extinction.  Scientific efforts to save the shihuahuaco have failed so far.

In 2015, the National Forestry and Wild Fauna Service, known as SEFOR formed a working group of specialists to recommend how to save threatened trees.  Its published final study included the shihuahuaco among the 61 species considered to be in critical danger. It was forwarded to environment minister Fabiola Muñoz.  The report silently disappeared into the bureaucracy. A investigator familiar with the study and the workings of Peruvian government has a typical opinion of what happened to the scientific recommendation for protection.  He told an interviewer that the lumber industry succeeded in quashing SEFOR's study.  Their opinion simply carries more weight with government officials.  According to the agency that supervises wildlife and forest resources, OSIFOR, the most logged tree species are the Peruvian pine (9% of the total), lupuna (8.8 %), cumula (8.6%) and, in fourth place, shihuahuaco (5.5%). Most of the lumber is destined for Mexico and the US where it is turned into furniture and parquet flooring.

dried shihuahuaco fruit, credit: D. Requena Suarez
Smallholders could play a significant role in the conservation of the shihuahuaco.  There seed gathering is demand and provides motivation to protect and cultivate the species.  Currently, Peruvian conservation policies leave out small holders who cannot own natural forests, but nonetheless utilize is resources.  As a recent visitor to the forest in the Ucayali Region observed, "After visiting eleven villages and interviewing over a hundred seed collectors, I can say that not only do these breath-taking trees still exist in Ucayali; but that they are closely related to and cared for by the people that surround them."

Sunday, November 04, 2018

"Toontime: Night of the Living Dwarfs

credit: Joe Heller
BC Idonwanna sez: Toonman left out Apathy!
Robert Mueller's Russian Connection investigation has submerged beneath the surface of the news like a Russian nuclear submarine.  No doubt the veteran prosecutor is minding his etiquette directives not to overshadow the election process.  Nevertheless, the investigation is on-going: Paul Manafort has bee interviewed nine times since he agreed to cooperate as part of his plea deal to avoid life imprisonment.  Hair Further better pray the Democrats do not take over the House;  a politically charged congressional investigation into areas not even touched by Mueller, such as Trump's organization serving as a front for Russian mob money-laundering, would much less polite.

One person likely to be indicted post-election is Roger Stone, a long-time conservative political operative. Trump's campaign manager after Manafort was Stephen Bannon, and he wasted no time contacting Stone when he heard Julian Assange of Wikileaks promise to unload a stash of stolen DNC emails. Stone made himself appear to be an inside conduit to obtaining those emails for political ammunition against Hillary Clinton. [read the emails here courtesy of the NYT]
However Stone is prone to puffery, to put it politely, so Mueller plans to call some of Stone's former employees before a grand jury to put the extent of Stone"s participation in the conspiracy into perspective. Stone said Wednesday in a media interview that he did nothing more than hyperbole and bluff.  He claims he knew nothing more than secondhand information and Assange's public statements. The investigators are honing in on the truth of the statement under oath Stone made to the House Intelligence Committee a year ago that he had no “advance knowledge of the source or actual content of the WikiLeaks disclosures.”

Investigators are also examining Stone's activities that may constitute witness tampering. Allegedly Stone told a former radio broadcaster, Randy Credico, who had knowledge of Wikileaks' plans to unleash a storm of stolen emails They are reviewing Credico's communications with Mr. Stone, including emails and text messages, in which Mr. Stone told Mr. Credico not to talk to the F.B.I. and to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself before the grand jury.   His PAC, the They are reviewing his communications with Mr. Stone, including emails and text messages, in which Mr. Stone told Mr. Credico not to talk to the F.B.I. and to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself before the grand jury. The investigation of Stone apparently includes his political funding since several advisors from his PAC, the Committee to Make America Great Again have been called to testify about donations to the PAC and to whom funds have been distributed.  So, the Russian Connection investigation makes way beneath the waves of "fake news".

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle

Friday, November 02, 2018

Where the Humans Are

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

The map [click to enlarge] shows the Earth's thirty-three megacities--those cities with 10 million or more inhabitants. Six megacities will develop by 2030, mostly located in the developing world. However, Chicago is expected to join the ranks by 2030, as it has been hovering near the 10 million mark for a while. New York, of course, was the first metropolis to pass the mark in the 1930s. Who would want to live in a city that large and frenetic? Some people have no choice; these cities are like magnets for economic activity. In a country that is poor and largely rural it is difficult to resist the lure of lucrative opportunities.   Megacities house about 9% of the global population, and 15% of global GDP.

Some surprising projections:
  • Luanda, the capital of Angola in southwest Africa, will reach 10 million by 2030. It is the fastest growing of the projected new megacities, but will still be much smaller than Cairo which will be Africa's biggest megacity at 29.8 million residents;
  • Jakarta will be the world's biggest city with 35.6 million inhabitants;
  • Tokyo will fall from the top spot as an aging population shrinks its growth to negative;
  • Chennai on India's Bay of Bengal will be the most densely populated but its economy will only be one-twelfth of Chicago's.
 Oh, the humanity!