Monday, December 24, 2018


Come back to this space in the New Year for more high impact* Blog from 

*Wall Street had its worse December since 1931.  The broad market S&P Five Hundred index is officially in bear territory, twenty percent off this year's high point.  Something worth more than gold: the truth.  Get your truth commercial-free from Persona Non Grata, since 2006!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

United Kingdom Bans Ivory Sales

ivory where it belongs
Conservationists see the ban signed into law last week by Queen Elisabeth II as an influential development in a global effort to save elephants from extinction in the wild by rampant poaching for their ivory.  The UK ban, to take effect in 2019, is strict banning all trade in items containing ivory regardless of age.  There are a few exceptions for musical instruments containing small amounts of ivory, artifacts of historical or artistic significance, and trade between museums.  Penalties range from significant fines to possible imprisonment.  UK's domestic ivory market is one of the largest in the world, but dwarfed by China and the United States.

erotic Hercules in ivory
UK's environment minister has established a coalition of government leaders, conservationists and others to work toward reducing the killing of elephants by one-third by 2020 and two-thirds by 2024.  Ending worldwide demand for their tusks is a key component of achieving this goal.  Conservationists Will Travers and Virginia McKenna, of Born Free fame, pointed out that poaching needs to be attacked on all fronts, including anti-poaching operations in the field, intelligence gathering, interception of international trafficking, deterrent law enforcement in range countries, and public education in market countries.  A representative of World Wildlife Funds said the UK ban shows decisive leadership needed to eventually eliminate the brutal trade, but China, the major destination for illegal ivory needs to resolutely enforce its own trade ban.  The EU and Japan also continue to allow ivory trading. The rule is simple and easy to understand: ivory belongs to elephants, NOT humans.

Friday, December 21, 2018

"Toontime: Uncovering the Depth of Corruption

The public is just beginning to know the depth of Individual I's corruption.  US Person thinks it reasonable to say that this scamming, opportunistic merchant of greed is the most corrupt to ever occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  He has exceeded some mighty competition in that category.  How is this situation possible in the 21st century you ask?  The short answer is: he was elected.  So perhaps his occupation of the land's most powerful office is an indicator of how decrepit our 'democracy' has become.  Individual I is the poster boy of dysfunction; his betrayal of America by aiding and abetting a foreign power is historic.

Individual I was forced to shut down his 'charitable' foundation by the New York State Attorney General this week.  She said the foundation was "little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests" which operated in "a shocking pattern of illegality".  The agreed shutdown was announced Tuesday.The remaining lawsuit against the Trump Organization seeks to bar him and his three oldest children from serving on the boards of other New York charitable organizations as well as millions in restitution and penalties.

Perhaps more importantly, the Attorney General sent letters of referral to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission concerning violations of federal law. According to the Attorney General, Trump used the foundation's assets to pay off legal obligations, to promote hotels and other business interests, to make personal purchases, and to provide extensive financial support for his presidential campaign.  He raised $2.8m through a televised foundation fundraiser he attended instead of participating in the Iowa presidential primary debate.  The funds were directed to selected non-profits by the senior leaders of his campaign organization in violation of federal law.

At least five $100,000 grants were made days before the Iowa caucuses. [photo].The foundation substantially existed in name only. Its board had not met since 1999. Individual I controlled the decision making alone; none of the foundations expenditures or activities were approved by the board of directors. It did not set policy or procedures regarding grants, or approve the ones made by Individual I. Casey Lewandowski, a Trump campaign manager, wrote in an email days before the Iowa primary, "Is there anyway we can make disbursements [from the charity funds] this week while in Iowa?" Trump has made repeated annual representations to the IRS in tax filings that his foundation was not engaged in any political activity.

Individual I also engaged in several self-dealing transactions for which the foundation was belatedly reimbursed after an investigation into the foundation was begun. A $100,000 payment was made to settle legal claims against his Mar-A-Largo resort. A $158,000 payment was made to settle more legal claims against Trump's National Golf Club. And he purchased a $10,000 artwork which was displayed at another business event in Miami. The White House refused to comment on the foundation's shut down. New York's Attorney General said she would continue to move the state lawsuit forward after the foundation closure to ensure that Trump and his associates are held accountable for their repeated violations of state and federal law*. Al Capone is having a good laugh right now.

credit: Sean Delonas
Wackydoodle axes, Not even if he shows you his subpoena?

*This week in the Russian Connection investigation former national security advisor of 24 days, Michael Flynn, was chastised by the federal judge determining his sentence. The judge offered him one more opportunity to cooperate in order to avoid jail time. Flynn accepted. General Flynn has been talking to the Special Counsel, but apparently not enough to satisfy the judiciary. It is difficult to say exactly what he has revealed since most of his cooperative testimony has been redacted before made public. But he operated at the highest level of the regime, so he probably shed light on the issue of obstruction in firing FBI Director Comey. What inquiring minds want to know: is Individual I's abrupt withdrawal of US forces from Syria a quid pro quo for Russian aid in the election?  Ask General Mattis.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Trump's Radical, Anti-Planet Agenda

Great egret, courtesy Audubon Society
Another example of the Trump regimes disdain for the natural world if you need anymore,
is its decision to withdraw enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of the nation's oldest environmental protection laws. The 100-year-old treaty originally codified an agreement between the United States and Canada to help ensure the preservation and protection of migratory birds from both intentional and incidental mortality caused by human activities. Over the years, the Act has broadened to include similar agreements with Mexico, Japan, and Russia.  It protects migratory birds, included the nation's symbol, the bald eagle, from human depredation that had nearly wiped out populations of wild migratory birds such as ducks, geese, swans and egrets when it was enacted in 1918.

Subsequent administrations of both camps have interpreted the Act to protect birds from human installations such as wind farms, power lines, and oil waste pits that are responsible for high bird mortality.  The current regime proposes to rewrite the law to eliminate those protections.  In December of last year, it issued a legal opinion stating that Act would not be enforced for the killing of birds that occurred during otherwise lawful activities such as oil drilling.  California recently joined New York and the National Resources Defense Counsel and Audubon Society in law suits maintaining the reinterpretation is arbitrary,  capricious, and an abuse of discretion.  The rollback of protections are all part of the regime's "bad for business" mantra.

California went a necessary step further last month when the state's Fish & Wildlife Department announced it would continue to protect birds under the state's laws and would include prohibiting so-called "incidental" killings.  Its legal advisory states, “California law contains a number of provisions prohibiting the 'take' of migratory birds.”  It also includes an extensive listing of California law allowing state officials to protect migratory birds in the absence of federal involvement.  Protecting wildlife is not "out of bounds" but good for sustainable business and the very survival of our own species.

Monday, December 17, 2018

COTW: Where the Poor Are

The holy market has had two significant drops recently, wiping out the year's advance.  401K watchers might be interested in this map courtesy of Visual Capitalist:

The red dots congregate in the Deep South.  No surprise there.  There is also a significant concentration in the southwest where there are large Native American populations, and in Appalachia where unemployment is endemic.  What the chart does not reveal is that these regions invariable vote for Repugnant politicians who support economic policies directly opposed to their interests.  It is the paradox of 'Merican politics: socially conservative poor whites voting for white plutocrats whose main interest is perpetuating the widening social inequities.  Contrast this delusional disconnect to the Gilete Jaune movement in France were the leaderless 99% have risen up via social media and taken to the streets to protest the unfair share of the welath claimed by the 1% that rules. (In 2008 French motorists were required to have a yellow vest in their car for roadside emergencies.)  Will this grassroots movement it lead to permanent change, or will it muddle its way to oblivion like the Occupy movement? Unknown. But at least the working French are making it clear they are as, "mad as hell, and are not going to take it anymore."  Louis XVII got the message too.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

COTW: It Is Not Over Yet

credit: Chris Weyant, Boston Globe
It was a busy and significant week for the investigation that will not stop. Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison and three years supervised probation on Wednesday for the crimes committed on behalf the proto-fascist* now know to history as Individual I. He was also ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution, forfeited $500,000 and fined $50,000 for lying to Congress. In return for his cooperation he was sentenced to the minimum security prison camp at Otisville, NY where his punishment will consist mostly of boredom.  More importantly however, he told interviewers what the nation has come to understand: the President of the United States is not telling the truth about his Russian Connection, and that he knew the hush money paid to the notorious women he laid with were illegal. Individual I was in the room when Cohen and National Inquirer publisher David Pecker discussed a $150,000 payment to a Playboy model for her story in what is usually referred to as a “catch and kill” offer on August 25 2016. This evidence is fatal to Individual I's repeated defense that he relied on his attorney to act in accordance with federal campaign financing laws. The admitted statement of facts at Cohen's sentencing reads, "the principle purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's [Karen McDougal's] story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."

Cohen is not known for his veracity; but rest assured that his version of events has been corroborated by independent evidence diligently gathered by the Special Prosecutor. In a politically charged, extremely high profile investigation such as his, it would be career suicide to do otherwise. Mr. Mueller is a career professional who does not strike US Person as emotionally unstable.

US Person is not a stock picker, but after eighteen months of closely following the steady progress made by Mr. Mueller, he will pick one here: Individual I will be impeached in the House of Representatives. The charges could range from making false statements, illegal campaign payments, conspiracy with foreign agents to influence the election, and obstruction of justice to possibly tax evasion and fraud. Mr. Mueller is known to be in possession of Individual I’s tax records as well as the Trump Foundation’s records. The breath of his Russian Connection investigation is breathtaking: it extends from the 2016 campaign and the election through inauguration and transition to the presidency.

Whether Individual I will be convicted in the Senate is a political calculation that hinges on the number and severity of his high crimes and misdemeanors, which cannot be plausibly denied. Repugnants will have to weigh defending a bombastic, unpopular nabob against the future electoral success of their exclusive plutocratic club. The potential bill of particulars against Individual I pales Bill Clinton's impeachment for a false statement made during a deposition in connection with the Monica Lewinsky affair; he only escaped conviction by a single vote. As one shrewd citizen observed, Trump made the big mistake of running the government like he runs his business.

*When Democratic leadership balked at paying for Trump's Folly--the border wall-- during a meeting attended by the press, Mr. Yuge played to the mob by threatening to shut down the government again, saying he would be "proud" to do so, or use the US military to complete the construction. What's the next step, Donito Trumpalini, marital law?

credit: Ed Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez:  He make small rocks from yuge rocks soon! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Earth, the Trashed Planet

One of the salient characteristics of human industrial civilization is the large amount of waste, toxic and otherwise, it disposes.  Are oceans are filling up with plastic; near space is crowded with technojunk ranging from defunct satellites, spent rockets, to fragments.  Man has been shooting objects into orbit since US Person was in elementary school; understandably there is quite a build-up of detritus that could endanger future space missions.  Now there is an effort underway to develop a capability to remove junk in orbit around the planet sponsored by a consortium of space companies, headed by the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom.

Last spring the group launched a Space Falcon 9 rocket carrying the RemoveDebris satellite to the International Space Station.  It successfully arrived at the Station were it began testing technology used to capture debris.  The satellite is supposed to launch its own debris in experiments intended to demonstrate capture of targets using a net or harpoon.  It will also demonstrate navigational capabilities needed to rendezvous with targeted objects.  When finished with its mission the satellite will de-orbit using a large drag sail.  The mission is not intended to be a prototype of future clean up missions, but only a low-cost feasibility project.

based on actual data, size not to scale, European Space Agency
The European Space program recognized that the proliferation of various types of orbiting systems used for navigation, weather observation and communication since the dawning of the space age sixty years ago poses a problem for the operational safety of future space exploration.  Significant collisions have already occurred according to the director of the Surrey Space Center.  Since 1957 when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, more than 5,250 launches have occurred creating more than 23,000 tracked debris in orbit.  The situation is not quite as bad as depicted in the artist's rendition [right], but it gives the reader an idea of the magnitude of the potential danger posed by junk in orbit.

Three countries are responsible for most of the junk in space: US, Russia and China.  There is evidence that fewer than half of the satellites put into space  are commanded to de-orbit and incinerate in the atmosphere at the end of their usefulness.  Even a tiny piece, such a paint chip, could present a danger to fragile, expensive equipment launched into space.  In low Earth orbit, objects travel at four miles per second, creating enough kinetic energy to impact with a force equivalent to a 550 lb object traveling 60mph.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Trump Regime Allows Seismic Blasting

North Atlantic Wright whale and her calf, credit S. Hanlan
Update:  Major aquariums along the east coast have expressed their opposition to five permits issued by the regime to allow seismic blasting in the search for more oil.  Scientists said that allowing more exploitation of an already stressed ecosystem was not a good idea.  The five aquariums include the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  They say the limitation on blasts imposed by NOAA when granting the permits are insufficient to protect vulnerable wildlife like the Wright whale. Seismic exploration has been shown to reduce singing in humpback whales, displace finback whales by hundreds of miles and disrupt activities vital to foraging and reproduction over vast ocean areas. Zooplankton declines by 64 percent within 4,000 feet of seismic blasts.  Zooplankton, the foundation of the ocean food chain declines by 64 percent within 4,000 feet of seismic blasts.  Noise in excess of a jet engine at 100 ft (>140dB) travel for hundreds of miles underwater.

The aquariums said they stand with 300 municipalities and 2,000 local officials that have expressed their disapproval of offshore drilling and exploration.  Every governor with the exception of those from Maine and Georgia are against the plan to exploit the Atlantic exclusive economic zone that extends 200 mile out from the US coastline.  A Democratic congressman from New Jersey will chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee in January. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr said members from both sides of the divide will fight the "reckless decision" to allow seismic testing.
 {04/12/18} The regime in Washington will allow oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast using a technique known to harm marine wildlife, especially those mammals that use echo location for finding food and navigation.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has granted permits to five companies to use seismic air gun blasts while searching for oil and gas deposits offshore.  The permits allow "incidental" harassment of marine mammals during the survey work.  The federal government itself estimates that airgun blasts could harm thousands of marine mammals including the critically endangered North Atlantic wright whale of which only 440 individuals survive.  The blasts send seismic shock waves through the water that travel 2500 miles.  Blasts of high energy occur every 10-12 seconds for weeks or even months on end.  The sound reaches levels of 260 decibels, equivalent to a grenade blast that would rupture a human eardrum.

Scientists have warned against the extreme disruption caused by seismic surveys using air guns for a wide range of species from whales to zooplankton, the foundation of the ocean food chain.  Under the permit conditions, operators will have to watch for marine life while testing, and shut down operations if sensitive species are observed in the area, but only intentional harm is prohibited, perhaps making a distinction without a practical difference.  Under the previous government, drilling was not allowed within fifty miles of the coast.  That limit has been reduced to three.  Environmental groups vow to fight back against renewed efforts to exploit offshore resources in the Atlantic ocean given support by the current regime in Washington.  The governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia  and New York have opposed offshore oil and gas development backed by popular and business support. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Vaquita Saved in Court

a drowned sentient being, NOT "by catch"
The Vaquita, Phocoena sinus, the smallest member of the porpoise family is very near extinction in the wild.  Fifteen individuals remain. Its home in the northern Gulf of California has been invaded by fisherman using fine mesh gill nets nets it cannot see. {28.03.16}The United States has failed to enforce a ban on fish products that harm vaquitas, a protected species under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, so conservation organizations including NRDC, sued the federal government.  The Federal Circuit appeals court responded by siding with conservationists against the incredible Trump regime to uphold the ban.  It is the third US court to do so.

The legal odyssey for the vaquita began in the US Court for International Trade in March where its human advocates secured a preliminary injunction against vaquita killing seafoods.  The Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury Departments had attempted to modify or undo the ban three times.  A US wildlife biologist for the Animal Welfare Institute said the US government is wasting time by continuing to oppose the court orders.  Mexico has attempted to restrict gill net use near the vaquitas' home range without much success.  It it is undisputed that gill net fishing in the northern Gulf is driving the species over the edge of existence.  Over the past 20 years, 95 percent of the population has been lost, and gill netting contributes to 50% or more of vaquita deaths.  Scientists predict that the small porpoise will be extinct soon, possibly even by 2021, if Mexican fishing practices and law enforcement efforts remain unchanged.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

"Toontime: The Shoe Drops

credit: Chris Weyant, Boston Globe
Wackydoodle sez: Putin's on his nice list!

Federal prosecutors in New York have finally linked Individual I to federal crimes in court documents filed for lawyer Michael Cohen's sentencing proceedings. The filings affirm Cohen's allegation that he paid off women to keep quite about their sexual encounters with Individual I at the height of his presidential campaign. These payments unambiguously constitute illegal campaign payments in the opinion of prosecutors. Federal law requires that any payments made "for the purposes of influencing" an election must be reported in campaign finance disclosures. These payments are likely to become the target of House Democrats when they take control of the House in January. A Democratic leader said the court filings "outline serious criminal wrongdoing." Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in an interview on Saturday. "And now you have a third [charge] — that the president was at the center of a massive fraud against the American people.” Nothing like calling the kettle black when it is a dirtball.

In addition to the illegal campaign finance activity, Cohen kept his boss informed of his efforts to speed Kremlin support for a tower development in Moscow well into his bosses' campaign for president. His Russian contact was an assistant to Putin's press secretary. Mueller states that this is important because the efforts to seal a deal, “came at a time of sustained efforts by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election.” The Special Counsel goes on to emphasize, “The Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government,” One Russian individual who sought to influence the presidential candidate through Cohen was probably Russian Olympic weightlifter, Dmitry Klokov, who offered to provide the Trump campaign with 'political synergy' and 'synergy on a government level'. Despite the mounting circumstantial evidence, Individual I continues to twit weekly, sometimes in CAPITAL LETTERS, that there was "no collusion" between him and Russian government officials.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes including campaign finance violations. Regardless of his subsequent cooperation with federal investigators, the aggressive Southern District of New York prosecutors are recommending to the court that Cohen serve four years in federal prison. Trump continues to deny he had any knowledge of the payments made to Stephanie Clifford, aka porn star Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model. Whether Individual I knew the payments to the women were illegal under federal campaign law is a critical question left unanswered by prosecutors in the documents filed so far. Clearly a connected attorney like Cohen, who had political campaign experience, should have known the payments were illegal, and he had an ethical duty to inform his client of the possibility. Cohen steadfastly maintains the payments were made at the direction of Individual I. If true, that would make the sitting President an accessory to the commission of two federal felonies.

credit: John Darkow, Columbia Missourian
BJ Idowanna sez: Me use smoke signals.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

In Memorium: P-64

US Person posted previously about the LA mountain lions that manage to survive in one of humanity's largest metropolis.  Their lives are immensely difficult due to marginal habitat fragment by rivers of steel and concrete--freeways. {18.09.15} One of these intrepid lions, P-64, became famous for her numerous crossings of Hwy 101 and 114. He successfully crossed them 41 times in the nine months the National Park Service tracked her through a GPS collar. The secret of his successful forays was in the use of a 640 ft long drainage tunnel with no light at the end because of bends in the pipe under 101.  Using this pipe at Liberty Canyon in the Agoura Hills, often filled with water required fortitude, and a strong instinct to occupy his territory. P-64 was photographed using the culvert [below] and became know as "the Culvert cat".

But death by vehicle impact was not P-64's fate. The devastating wildlfires  claimed him; his body was found with burnt paws. Cully was in the Simi Hills when the fire broke out on November 8th and traveled several miles through the fire before stopping in a remote place. Cully had two choices: either enter a populated area full of noisy humans fighting the fires, or enter the burning landscape in hopes of surviving.  He chose the latter, and lost a charmed life that had surpassed so many human imposed challenges before.

The Park Service tracks 13 cougars, eleven of which were near the perimeter of the Simi fire. Nine are moving around and appear to have survived their ordeal. Another young cougar, P-74, appears to have perished in the flames. Cully's death vividly demonstrates the need to give wildlife a chance to survive in a landscape altered almost beyond recognition. A wildlife crossing can be built over the freeway at Liberty Canyon to allow animals to forage and mate successfully--not force them to choose death trapped in a dark, water filled tunnel or death crushed beneath a speeding vehicle.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Creature Feature: Central Park Mandarin

credit: AP

No, not a high Chinese official assigned to the UN, but the little duck attracting big attention in Central Park.  New Yorkers appreciate flair and even a little bling, but this kaleidoscopic duck resembles modern art with his flashy display.  The male Mandarin is most likely an escapee from a private collection; they are native to east Asia.  Photographers and gawkers have been gathering for months for a glimpse of the exotic Aix galericulata.  In terms of crowd, appeal it out performs our own native colorist, the wood duck, to which it is closely related.  An admirer said the mandarin resembled a "living box of crayons", brightening the environs of a predominantly grey cityscape in winter.

This week the duck, who has a streak of showmanship, chose to display in front of the iconic Plaza Hotel where he was sure to attract a big audience.  He wowed them: preening his vibrant sunset array, strutting his assets upon the banks, or gliding regally across his adopted pond.  The Asian duck is not intimidated by the locals either, taking pecks at the other waterfowl as deemed necessary. His carefree attitude has enraptured hardened New Yorkers. In traditional Chinese culture mandarins are regarded as a symbol of conjugal affection and fidelity, and are frequently featured in Chinese art. If he rolls the dice right, this little mandarin will live to hybridize with the wood ducks, mallards, northern pintails, and black ducks that also call Gotham's Central Park home.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

COTW: The Relentless Rise of Carbon Emissions

source: EPA
This year has had the greatest increase in carbon emissions in seven years.  Since 1970, CO₂ emissions have increased by about 90% over the amount emitted at the beginning of the previous century.  The world is going backward, not forward, which is to be expected under reactionary politicians in power who refuse to respect good-faith, international efforts to do something about the global warming crisis.  China is now the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, but it also has the world's largest population.  On a per capita basis, the United States emits the most destructive carbon pollution.