Saturday, July 20, 2019

'Toontime: Disloyal Bully

credit: Ed Wexler
How do you deal with a racist bully? Anyone who survived the school yard should be able to tell you: give him what he is asking for. Nancy Pelosi's sole reliance on the results of the next rigged election (remember the Electoral College) is historically misplaced.  Don Veto has made his reelection strategy clear: the same as last time, relying on a largely white, nationalist base that thrills to blatant themes of racial superiority.  Just watch the video from his recent rally of the patriotic Volk of North Carolina!  What is frightening is that strategy might work again; all the pundits and polls said Hillary would win. Surprise!

Democrats need to begin the impeachment process now, Il Douche's high crimes and misdemeanors must be revealed to the world, and NOT in a 448 page bureaucratic tome.  Empty witness chairs are simply underwhelming the narrative, nor dispelling the rhetorical hypnotism of "No obstruction; No collusion!" So what if he is eventually let off after a public trial by the dying GOP?  Even"'your favorite President" cannot politically survive a daily dose of reality TV courtesy of the House Judiciary Committee.  The inescapable fact is that he, through his campaign minions, cooperated with a foreign adversary to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  Technically its not treason, but it is illegal*

Is Don Veto more disloyal than this man? Discuss.
* 52 U.S.C. Section 30121 (a)(2)  Cooperation is defined by the FEC as "made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party committee or its agents."  Proof of a conspiracy therefore need not be present. The FEC Commissioner had to resort to Twitter to remind everyone that accepting contributions, including in-kind contributions, from foreign agents is illegal after Don Veto signaled he would still be interested in derogatory information from a foreign government seeking to influence a federal election.  When asked if he would report such activity to the FBI, he responded by saying he has 'never in his life contacted the FBI'--this, from a businessman that has cut deals with the mob and red lined minorities from his housing projects.

Friday, July 19, 2019

F-35 Is a Flying Lemon

The fighter jet that was to be the all purpose answer for continuing US air power superiority at $38 million a copy, now costs $154.8 million each and may never be ready for use in actual combat.  That is the conclusion drawn from the latest, circumspect report from the Pentagon, which has an institutional basis in favor of the weapon system.  The 2018 report from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) found the fighter has significant shortcomings:
  • Little or no improvement in the key availability, reliability, and flying-hour metrics over the last several years means too few F-35s will likely be ready for combat when they are most needed, now or for the foreseeable future.
  • During durability testing, the Marine and Navy F-35s have suffered so many cracks and received so many repairs and modifications that the test planes can’t complete their 8,000-hour life-expectancy tests. The Marine version’s air frame, which is intended to withstand the stress of VSTOL operations, could be so short that today’s F-35Bs might end up in the boneyard as early as 2026, 44 years before the program’s termination date
  • Despite years of patches and upgrades, the F-35’s most combat-crucial computer systems continue to malfunction, including the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) maintenance and parts ordering network; and the data links that display, combine, and exchange target and threat information among fighters and intelligence sources.
  • The program has not provided the resources necessary to build, test, and validate the on board mission-data files that control mission accomplishment and survival.
  • As in previous years, cyber security testing shows that many previously confirmed F-35 vulnerabilities have not been fixed, meaning that enemy hackers could potentially shut down the ALIS network, steal secret data from the network and on-board computers, and perhaps prevent the F-35 from flying or from accomplishing its missions.
  • The all-important and much-delayed F-35 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation report—assessing whether the plane is combat-suitable and ready for full-scale production—may well not only be late, but may also be based on testing that is considerably less combat-realistic than planned. This is both because test personnel are forced to make do with incompletely developed, deficiency-laden planes, and the F-35 program has for years failed to fund adequate test-range hardware and realistic multi-aircraft, multi-threat simulation facilities.
Despite these shortcomings and others in a software dependent, highly complex aircraft that has been bested by previous generation fighters (F-16) in simulated combat, the Navy has pressed it into combat service.  The Pentagon has refused to reveal the critical "fully mission capable rates" that measure an aircraft's ability to perform all of its intended missions.  This information was made public in previous editions of the DOT&E.  Obviously the brass has something to hide about the poor performance of its supposedly superior fighter. Rates obtained by POGO (Project on Government Oversight) from the Navy show that F-35 has current mission rates that are extremely low.  In 2017 the F-35B posted 23%, but it fell to 12.9% in 2018. The F-35C went from 12% in 2016 to 0 in 2017 and remained in single digits for all of 2018. During Desert Storm combat fighters flew on average one sortie per day, with A-10 flying 1.4 sorties per day. Six F-35s on the USS Essex flew once every three days during a recent 50 day combat deployment to the Middle East.

That the weapons emporium is very sensitive about deserved criticism of the F-35's capabilities, is demonstrated by a rigged fly-off in the ground support role against the venerable and combat proven A-10 that took place last summer; this testing was required three years ago by the Senate.  However, the way the tests were designed was not a verisimilitude of ground attack conditions against an enemy at least equipped with infantry launched SAMs.  As one informed military observer put it, "The test[ing] was designed by someone with a vested financial interest in the F-35 program, rather than by people whose primary interest is its performance in combat." The results of the tests have not been released.  It would be extremely embarrassing for the Pentagon if a Vietnam-era aircraft exceeded the performance of a modern fighter costing $154 million each.  The A-10 continually demonstrates the superiority of a purpose-built aircraft as opposed to a multi-role 'superfighter' that is master of none.

the Death Star is more expensive
A final example of the vested life of the F-35: 941 design flaws were detected in the aircraft's development stage before operational testing began. 102 of these were categorized as "Category I"--flaws that could "cause death or serious injury", or ground the aircraft from flying.  Rather than correct them, officials made paperwork adjustments. These flaws will undoubtedly affect the F-35's ability to fight well into the future; already produced F-35s will require extensive retrofits to accomplish their intended life expectancy. Over its planned 55 year life span, the program is expected to cost $1.5 trillion. US Person must be a hostile commie if he expects exorbitantly expensive military hardware [graphic] to fight reliably in 'Merica's never-ending wars of empire. Trillions for weapons, but no hospital care for you.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Operation Thunderball

white tiger cub seized in Mexico
INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization coordinated a worldwide effort in June that resulted in the seizure of thousands of protected animals and plants and the identification and arrest of 582 trafficking suspects.  The operation spanned 111 countries.  Intelligence collected before the 26 day operation began identified smuggling routes and hot spots to target.  Over eighteen hundred seizures hauled in significant amounts of contraband: 2600 plants including 74 truckloads of timber; 440 elephant tusks; 10,000 live turtles and tortoises; 4300 birds; 23 live primates; and 30 live felines.  An amazing 1.3 tons of pangolin scales and1.4 tons of dried seahorses were also collected.

INTERPOL Secretary Jürgen Stock said that the international illegal trade in wildlife not only strips our biosphere of natural resources but also has a societal impact through associated violence, fraud and money laundering.  Operation Thunderball was clearly a successful law enforcement effort and a compelling example of international cooperation to defeat the illegal trade.  It was funded by the UN, EU, UK and the US.  Countries now need to close the loop with successful prosecutions that will deter those responsible for the rape of the Earth.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

COTW: The Chart That Explains Washington

Think 'Merica is headed towards a dystopian fascist future?  If the hysterical, racist-tinged rhetoric coming from the Swamp is any indication, you could not be far wrong.  In the interest of clarity, US Person offers this single chart that explains where we are now as well as why the regime wanted a citizenship question on the 2020 Census


Meanwhile, another day, another congressional subpoena defied by the scofflaw gang occupying the Very White House. 'Love it or leave it'--we have heard that taunt before! To which US Person replies, "I will stay, thank you very much--better red than dead". To which Karl added, "Men, make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

High temperature hit 114.6 in France two weeks ago. (Gallargues-le-Montueux, Gard, June 28, 2019). Res ipsa loquitor.

Monday, July 15, 2019

What We Don't Need: the Electoral College

Fifteen states have taken steps to eliminate this historic relic.  Bernie says it is hard to defend a system that elected the deranged plutocrat, hard to defend a system that  elected the deranged plutocrat, Don Veto Trumpilini [photo], who lost the popular election by 3 million votes.  That is a popular position with citizens; a current poll* says support for eliminating the College runs 2 to 1 in favor.


States are responding to the need for reforming the
way a president is electedby joining the National Popular Vote Compact. Oregon recently became the 15th state to sign the compact.  Under this interstate agreement, signatory states assign all of their electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Right now signatories control 196 electoral votes of the needed 270 to elect a president. The compact has a significant advantage in that a constitutional amendment is not needed to turn the College into an instrument of the popular will.  Even establishing an interstate agreement is not easy; recently Maine and Nevada declined to sign the agreement.  Swing states which have an inequitable influence under the current system will be unlikely to sign also, and some red states will need to join if the agreement is to take effect with at least 270 votes. Besides Senator Sanders, nine other Democratic candidates have expressed their support of eliminating the Electoral College.

There are some problems with a national popular vote designating the next president, but they are not insurmountable.  Currently, the national vote does not have official standing, it is largely ad hoc.  Theoretically, a state could try to repudiate its agreement to assign its electoral votes in a disputed national vote total, say a state popular vote elected Candidate A who also won the Electoral College vote, but Candidate B won the national popular vote.  Such an attempted repudiation would make Florida's hanging chads look like confetti.  A national popular vote overseen by a Federal Election Agency that insures uniformity in the state voting processes would be preferable, but that would require amending the Constitution, an event beyond the bounds of political reality as it now stands. The compact specifies that if a state wants to leave the compact between July 20 and January 20 of a presidential election year, their departure won’t become effective until after the president is inaugurated.  Despite is warts, 'commie' US Person thinks the compact is the best way forward because clearly the Electoral College does not fulfill the constitutional standard of "one person, one vote".


*Across the Great Lakes region, the former industrial heartland and a key swing vote, 'Mericans say they would prefer presidential elections to be decided by the national popular vote as opposed to the Electoral College. Roughly two-thirds of Ohio (66%), Michigan (66%), and Wisconsin (67%) residents say they prefer the popular vote over the Electoral College. Nearly seven in ten (69%) Minnesota residents and close to three-quarters (73%) of Illinois residents also express a preference for the popular vote.

Friday, July 12, 2019

COTW: A House Divided....

credit: Bob Englehart
Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is too "divisive". US Person thinks that is the lamest excuse a Swamp politician has ever come up with to justify not fulfilling Congress' constitutional duty. The Democratic leadership's political punt to the 2020 election is so obvious it stinks, but then the smells coming out of Washington right now are fairly rancid.

While Don Veto was soaking up pomp with Queenie in the UK, DOJ investigators were grilling the author of the now infamous "Steele Dossier". Christopher Steele, a British security consultant and former MI6 spy, was hired by Fusion GPS, a DC security firm to do opposition research on the 2016 Trump campaign. Fusion GPS was first hired by a conservative opponent of Individual I, but the evidence of collusion Steele gathered was handed off to the DNC and then to the FBI. The dossier became a basis for a surveillance warrant obtained from the secret federal FISA court to allow the FBI to spy on Carter Page, a Trump campaign official.

Taking advantage of media distraction caused by the state visit, DOJ's inspector General office under Michael Horowitz interrogated Steele in London for 16 hours. They finally determined Steele is a credible witness, enough so to justify continuing the investigation that began in 2018 into how the FBI's counter-intelligence operation, "Hurricane Crossfire", got started. Page was noticed by the FBI in 2013 when he interacted with a Russian agent in New York. In 2016 he met with high level officials in Moscow, including the head of investor relations for the state-owned oil company Rosneft. Page denied these contacts until he testified to Congress in 2017.

The regime has been attempting to smear Steele as a partisan motivated to 'take down' Don Veto with lies and innuendos, methods they know only too well. Conservatives have also seized on Mueller’s conclusion that no criminal conspiracy existed between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin as evidence that Steele’s sensational dossier is a fraud.* The DOJ inspector general's finding that Steele is a credible intelligence professional has entirely discredited that meme.

credit: John Darkow
*Jed Sugerman writing at The Daily Beast correctly points out that Congress,  "purposely sought to prevent such narrow  interpretations [the meaning of coordination Mueller used in his report]: in 2002, it passed a statute directing that campaign finance regulations '“shall not require agreement or formal collaboration to establish coordination.' The Federal Election Commission established the defining regulations for the implementation of the statute:  'Coordinated means made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate', with no need to show any kind of agreement."  The Supreme Court upheld these limits in McConnell v. FEC with crucial observations about the functional role of suggestions, rather than agreements: '[E]xpenditures made after a wink or nod often will be as useful to the candidate as cash.'”

The pattern of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents is full of suggestions far more explicit than winks and nods.  In fact there is even an identifiable quid pro quo as a basis for charging a criminal conspiracy: Paul Manafort provided Russian agent Konstantin Kliimnick confidential polling information. US Person believes this information may have included demographic analysis by Cambridge Analytics, a company owned by reactionary mega-donor Robert Mercer, that allowed Russian agents to target their social media campaign to the most susceptible audiences in swing states Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota. Trump's suggestion at a press conference that, "he hopes Russia finds Hillary's 30,000 missing emails" was a lot more than a joke, which he admitted himself during an MSNBC interview.  His speech was a public signal that the candidate was interested in whatever damaging information Russian agents could find in their illegal intercepts.  He even ordered his own campaign to find the emails.  Partisan operative Robert Stone was in contact with Julian Assange of Wikileaks at this time; Assange in turn may have been in direct contact with GRU agents operating blogs Gucifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, his source for the intercepted email.  Robert Mueller should be carefully questioned about these aspects of his investigation at his appearance before the House, since it is now apparent he deliberately refrained from making credible allegations of conspiracy against Trump in his report, or he did not correctly apply existing federal campaign law to the facts before him.  See Article I of US Person's suggested Impeachment Articles. {12.06.19} IMPEACHMENT NOW, otherwise the people may begin to suspect yet another collusion is afoot, if they have not already.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Luangwa Still Flows Free

Having been on safari in Luangwa National Park, Zambia the alleged 'commie', US Person, is pleased to know Zambia's government has decided not to construct a mega-dam across the free flowing Luangwa River. [photo credit: WWF]  The Luangwa River valley is home to many of Africa's iconic animals, including 400 bird species, and the only home for reintroduced black rhino in Zambia. Constructing a dam at the Ndevu Gorge would have fragmented the ecosystem along with the livelihoods of numerous human settlements that depend on the 638 mile river for food and tourists who flock there to enjoy one of Africa's remaining wild places.

WWF said it is committed to helping the nation develop an alternative energy plan that does not depend on hydroelectric power to meet emission and development goals.  Just one third of Earth's longest rivers remain free flowing. Aquatic habitat fragmentation is a major factor in the 83% decline in fresh water species since 1970.  The Muchinga Escarpment is an ideal location for wind and solar power installations.  Senior Chief Luembe of the Nsenga thanked the government for listening to his people's plea not to dam the river and disrupt a gem of the African wild.  Green Kudos go to Zambia!

COTW: Debt Peonage in the Land of the Free


This chart shows the exorbitant rates of interest the working poor are charged in 'Merica to get to the next paycheck, when they will have to take out another 'short term' loan to pay off the previous one. This is how the industry makes 3/4 of its profits.  The pernicious pay day loan industry is an unsubtle example of class warfare that insures working people are working for capitalists, not themselves. US Person has advocated reestablishing postal banks that can make small loans at a reasonable rate of interest and pay small savers a 2% return on their deposits. Postal banks operated in the US until 1967. At its peak in 1947, the system held almost $3.4 billion in deposits because it worked. Since the Great Recession of 2008, households have made an effort to reduce their amount of indebtedness.  Still, there are more payday loan outlets than McDonald's in 'Merica, another name for 'freedom':

 

No doubt there is a need for short-term loans especially when employers do not pay a living wage, or substitute temporary employees with no benefits for real employment, but do the plutocrats need to prey on poor people in the process?  Not, if as Bernie Sanders suggests, “We overcome their greed, and create an economy and a government that works for all, not just the one percent."  Kenneth Langone, who co-founded Home Depot is a man worth $3.7 billion dollars, yet pays his workers so little many rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing says, "I saw Bernie Sanders and the kids around him." I thought: "This is the antichrist."  Their delusional mind set is real, and this election is their Armageddon against socialism!

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Heavenly Gold Rush

Good News:  An asteroid chock full of enough gold to make everyone on Earth wealthy is on its way to our planet!  Sounds like something Don Veto would twit, right?  Believe it or not, an asteroid containing precious metals worth an estimated US$700 quintillion (18 zeros) has been identified as Psyche 16.  That is enough gold to give every person on the planet close to a trillion dollars.  Of course what makes gold, gold is its rarity; that much gold could play havoc with its market price. NASA plans an unmanned, solar powered probe to the ore-laden space rock in 2022, arriving in 2026. [graphic courtesy NASA]  Psyche 16 orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the Asteroid Belt, 466 million miles from Earth. Mining the distant ore remains the major unsolved problem.

Companies have already been created whose mission is to mine space metals even though space mining is beyond current technological feasibility. Lichtenstein has 11 such companies registered on its books.  This is where imagination comes in--if man can imagine it, then he will eventually be able to accomplish the imagining.  Current science fiction films and novels are already there.  Avatar, the Alien trilogy, and Dune are examples of sci-fi works with exo-mining themes.  The prize is large, since the 4-5 million ounces brought to market from terrestrial sources each year pales in comparison to what is available in space. A smaller neighbor of Psyche 16, only 200 meters long, could be worth $30 billion in platinum.

Their are closer targets too: the Moon contains valuable rare earth elements, and near Earth asteroids that could be nudged into orbit contain water a major source of hydrogen.  One authoritative estimate is that it will take half a century of development before commercial production could begin, but investors anticipate that space mining will be the next "rush".  The current space mining market is worth $3.5 billion according to Stanley Morgan, by 2040 it could reach a heavenly $2.7 trillion, much more than "pennies from heaven"!

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Creature Feature: Covered Parking for Red Shouldered Hawk

This hawk (Buteo lineatus) made a clever choice of nesting site underneath a roofed shed. Reston, VA is in the DC suburbs--not a place you expect a hawk to nest. The fact is that wildlife is running out of wild, so some choose to co-habitate with man. The next time you see wildlife in your neighborhood, don't panic and call the exterminators, just enjoy the gift and return it with tolerance. Can you spot the hawk in this frame?


"Toontime: Twisted History


credit: Matt Davies, Newsday
 Wackydoodle: At least he is wearing clothes!

A B-2 costs $169,313 per hour to operate and are only based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Estimating a two hour flight time each way plus loitering over DC gives a conservative cost estimate of $850,000 for just the bomber. The fly over US Person saw on television included two F-22s which cost $33,538 per hour to fly.  On the mall for the Fourth of Me: B-2 'Sprit', two F-35Cs, two Super Hornet F-18s, four Apache helicopters, two F-22 Raptors, H-60 and H-65 helos, along with the Navy's Blue Angels aerobatic team, Abrams tanks and Bradley APCs, and Air Force One. The Pentagon refuses to provide a cost estimate for this vulgar, militaristic display on the mall; but the Park Service lost $2.5 million from its budget to help fund it. Veto's bizarre, plutocratic nightmare* needs to be pulled off stage ASAP. 

credit: M. Wuerker, Politico
BC Idonwanna sez:  Four if they take the Metro!
*A senior British diplomat, Ambassador Kim Durroch, told the UK government that the current regime was "disfunctional" in cables leaked to the Sunday Daily Mail. Durroch called the US policy towards Iran "incoherent, chaotic". In his opinion the regime was not "going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept...’’

Friday, July 05, 2019

Baked Alaska on the 4th!


Wasalia, AK
While confused and deluded MAGA-types gawked at weapons of war on the streets and in the skies of DC, Anchorage, Alaska recorded 90℉ temperature at 5pm for the first time in history. Experts quickly pointed to climate change as the reason for the record heat in Alaska's largest city.  Anchorage is located about 350 miles south of the Arctic circle. Anchorage is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave; higher than average temperatures occurred everyday in June, which usually has an average of 67 degrees. The record temperature on July 4th shattered the previous high of 85℉ set in 1969.  Hot and dry conditions caused city officials to cancel a fireworks display due to extreme fire hazard.  The normally cool city could suffer even higher temperatures as the holiday weekend continues.

More than 100 wildfires were burning in the Arctic Circle in June. Arctic ocean water temperatures are up to 10℉ higher than normal.  The hot water has affected sea birds and marine life; mass mortality events are now increasingly common.  Dozens of towns in Alaska are now or will soon be in need of relocation from eroding land and rising oceans.  The lack of sea ice in the Bering Sea is contributing to the baking of Alaska.  Enjoy!

Bernie asks: Maybe we should take global warming seriously, instead of a hoax?

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

COTW: 'Pet Rock' Wins Again

For the period 2001 to the present, the stock market (DJI) is up 69% from 16,000 to around 27,000 currently. Contrast that with gold which began at roughly $400 and is now $1400 for the same period, or 350%!  Gold is at a six year high. ($1413.4) Current belligerent behavior from the Very White House can only increase gold's market value. Some seers say gold's trend will take it to $3000 or even $5000 an once!

It does not hurt gold's case that the Duck has nominated a gold bug for the Fed Board either. Judy Sheldon is the executive director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and an advocate for return to a gold standard. Add to the mix the fact that Treasuries have a real rate below 1%, an inverted yield curve for an entire quarter*, and central banks are buying large amounts of gold, thus insuring a strong demand for the pet rock.

*considered a near infallible indicator of a coming recession. An inverted yield curve occurs when long term government bonds have a yield lower than short term government notes. This condition has correctly predicted economic downturns for the last 50 years.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Six More Right Whales Die

floating carcass snared in lines
Six more North Atlantic right whale deaths were recorded in June including a mature breeding female.  Each unnatural death is critical for the highly endangered species; only about 411 (2017) remain. A recent study of 70 deaths recorded between 2003 and 2018 showed that 88% were caused by either ship collisions or entanglement in fishing lines. [photo courtesy NOAA]  The mature female named Punctuation, after the scars on her head resembling punctuation marks, was known to have given birth to eight calves, and was the grandmother of two more.  Initial necropsies by Canadian officials indicate some of the whales died from ship collisions.  Comet, a grandfather, had injuries consistent with blunt force trauma as did Punctuation. The bodies were spotted in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a known feeding ground.

Eighty-three percent all individual North Atlantic right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once in their lives, and 59 percent have been entangled two or more times. Both Comet and an 11-year-old female found dead had suffered several entanglements with fishing gear in recent years. Conservationists have repeatedly made recommendations to government officials to impose speed limits in areas of known right whale activity, and mandating a switch to less dangerous fishing lines.  In response to the reported deaths by imposing some regulations including an interim speed limit of 10 knots for vessels longer than 20 meters in the western Gulf shipping lanes.  Fishing areas will be adjusted during prime season to account for the presence of right whales feeding in the areas.

Of the three species of right whales, the North Atlantic one (Eubalaena glacialis) lives in the most industrialized region, close to the shore.  This habitat subjects them to an unnatural death rate due to human activity.  A computer model developed by researchers shows the birth rate to be half what is thought to be intrinsic to the species.  The deaths of adult females accounted for about two-thirds of the difference between the estimated intrinsic growth rate and what has been observed.  Once hunted to near extinction, the species recovered once hunting was banned in 1938, but the population began to decline again in 2010.  There were 17 known deaths and five births in 2017.  In 2018, no calves were observed in US waters and three deaths were documented.  This year seven calves have been spotted.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Belize Agrees to Protect Wildlife Corridor

Tapirus bairdii
Belize has announced it will protect the Maya Wildlife Corridor that connects the Maya Mountains in southern Belize to the Maya lowlands shared by Belize, Guatemala and Mexico in the north. The twelve mile long, four mile wide corridor will create the largest continuous region of neotropical forest in Central America. That is good news for the iconic jaguar as well as the endangered spider monkey, river turtle, and tapir [photo credit: N. Hawkins] Beyond the announcement, work needs to be done acquiring private land in the corridor; sixty-five percent of which has been lost to sugar cane plantation and other agriculture. NGO partners will help raise funds for
Panthera onca
acquisitions and provide technical support. Once the forest is secured steps will be taken to insure large-scale agriculture does not continue to expand endangering needed habitat, and that local human communities benefit from the corridor management plan. A spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society said "the Belize government is stepping up for all of humanity by keeping this globally important forest intact”. GREEN KUDOS once again* to Belize!

*Belize held a referendum in the recent past in which the citizens voted to protect its entire Carribean barrier reef from oil exploration, second in size only to Australia's dying Great Barrier Reef. {22.04.13}

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Fear and Loathing in Salem

This post could be titled: how Stimson Lumber defeated cap and trade in Oregon. The opposition which brought down the landmark legislation in Salem goes beyond the money of Andrew Miller, CEO of Stimson Lumber, who organized a 'flash mob' (Timber Unity) to demonstrate outside the state capitol against the green legislation complete with tractors and backhoes*. Miller is seeking to capture next door Clackamas County politics to offset the liberal voting weight of Portland. To date he has spent $2.2 million of his inherited fortune from the family lumber business on his pet PAC, more than any other business in the state. Predictably speakers characterized the dispute over the legislation as one between rural, conservative Oregon and urban, liberal Multnomah County.

The boycott by eleven Repugnant legislators that deprived the state Senate of a quorum prevented a vote on Bill 2020. It was fueled by corporate money to be sure. More than 65% of the campaign funding for the eleven AWOL legislators comes from corporate interests. Over the last decade, the length of time invested in creating the cap and trade plan, companies that would be affected by it gave $117,619 to these representatives. In comparison, the current Democratic state senators received only $43,250. That is significant money in Oregon where legislators are only part-time lawmakers. Oregon is first on the list of per capita corporate donations to lawmakers, and has among the weakest campaign finance laws in the nation, with no limits on the amount of contributions. Fossil fuel users and producers are prominent political contributors. Consequently, Oregon's environmental protection laws are weaker than those of its immediate neighbors, California and Washington. In Washington, fossil fuel interests spent $30 million to defeat that state's effort to reduce carbon emissions.

But corporate dominance in Oregon crosses the isle too. Democratic state senator, Laurie Monnes Anderson, who represents a district in Clackamas County (referred to as "Clackastan" by progressives) was expected to deliver a key vote in favor of the cap and trade scheme. But in deference to Boeing, Inc., which has a plant in her district, she said she would not vote for Bill 2020 this week. Boeing’s greenhouse emissions fall below the 25,000 metric ton threshold to be directly regulated under the proposed policy, meaning the company would not be required to buy allowances to offset its carbon emissions at state auctions. But it could voluntarily opt into the program. If it did, the company would receive 95 percent of its emissions allowances for free. Apparently the company was still concerned about higher electricity costs, which generated Anderson's opposition; “I’m fighting for Boeing because they’re in my district,” said Anderson. The Democratic Senate President, Peter Courtney, was then forced to admit there was not enough support within his own caucus to pass the complex legislation, even if the state police, upon instructions from the Democratic governor, were able to roundup the missing legislators in Idaho for a quorum.

This is not the first time Repugnants were able to defeat legislation supported by the Democratic super-majority using guerrilla tactics. Earlier this session, they were able to defeat a tax bill they did not like. They only returned to the chamber once a deal was struck to shelve vaccine and gun safety legislation in return for a promise not to walk out on their jobs again. Fooled again, Charlie Brown! So there is a lot of fear in loathing in Salem right now as legislators work their agenda backlog to avoid a detested special session.

*Miller claims Timber Unity was independently formed by employees from his timber mill. What he does not tell you is that Stimson Lumber recently laid off 60 workers at the Forest Grove mill.

Friday, June 28, 2019

'Toontime: Give Me Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses

credit:Dario Castellejos

Remember 3 year-old Syrian Alan Kurdi, washed up dead on a Turkish beach in the attempt to reach the EU in 2015....This week a searing and tragic photo filled cyberspace: a migrant and his small child drowned in the Rio Grande River. It is somewhat encouraging that the original Bernie on stage last night acknowledged depraved US foreign policy towards Central America shares responsibility for the flood tide of immigrants seeking to escape crime, corruption and political chaos in countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Building walls on the border is simply a cheap political trick by a pathological, lying fraud not fit for public office. He already has his concentration camps, so what's next in his march to fascism? We have met the enemy, and he is POTUS.

credit: Ruben Bolling

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Conservative Justices Deliver Blow to Democracy

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision along ideological lines ruled that federal courts cannot review partisan gerrymandering cases, no matter how egregiously unfair.  The majority concluded that there were no neutral legal standards with which to judge a political question beyond a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction.  Justice Kagan delivered a dissent from the bench in the case of Rucho v. Common Cause, No. 18-422, saying that “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government....Part of the court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections.”  Chief Justice Roberts admitted in his majority opinion. “The redistricting plans at issue here are highly partisan, by any measure.”

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify publicly on July 17th.  Trump's response: "No collusion!"

Super-Rich Mercers Bail on Trump

A Repugnant operative described it as "crickets".  That is the sound of ultra rich Robert Mercer, founder of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, bailing on Don Veto.  The desertion is significant because Mercer and wife contributed almost $50 million to elect the accused criminal occupying the Very White House during the 2016 cycle.  In 2018 that figure dropped to less than $3 million.  According to associates of the reclusive billionaire he has become disillusioned with Trumpillini (spelled with 3 i's).  The famously cheap plutocrat was grateful enough for Mercer's support that he gave a transition team job to daughter Rebekah, and made an appearance at the annual chez Mercer costume ball on Long Island.  Mercer had ties to conservative media firm Breitbart,  former incendiary political advisor Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytics, the firm which provided demographic analysis of voters.  The company was investigated by the FBI for appropriating private data from more than 50 million Facebook users.  In May the Mercers shut the company down.  Insiders say the potential legal jeopardy "really spooked them".

Sources close to the reclusive scientist say he will not play a role in the 2020 election.  Mercer and Rebekah have also distanced themselves from the banished Bannon after his kiss-and-tell book came out, and Robert has transferred his interest in Breitbart to his daughters. Despite all the money they invested in electing the erratic tycoon, sources told Gabriel Sherman writing at Vanity Fair, "they never really liked Trump", preferring Ted Cruz.  What they really wanted was someone to beat Hillary Clinton whom Robert Mercer considers a "socialist" and "an evil person".

Can US Person say something nice about Robert Mercer, who was instrumental in saddling the country with a sociopathic narcissist and accused rapist* as president?  Yes: he is said to like cats.

*Twenty-two women have accused Don Veto of sexual misconduct towards them.  The latest accusation includes actual penetration of the victim's sexual organ.  During the 2016 campaign he bragged about be able to 'grab women by the pussy' because he is rich and famous.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The War that Almost Was

Fortunately the Pentagon was not ready for a war against Iran when it decided to shoot down an unmanned drone instead of a Poseidon P-8 surveillance plane carrying 38 Navy personnel. [photo]  Both aircraft were violating Iranian airspace on June 20, 2019.  But according to highly placed Iranian military commanders, the P-8, which was over Iran's airspace in the Persian Gulf and appeared on radar intercept screens, was ignored in favor of destroying the unmanned drone.  According to a Middle East military correspondent for Al Rai media, the Revolutionary Guard command received confirmation through a third country that the US was not ready to go to war with Iran. The US accuses Iran of attacking two oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz with mines.

The Global Hawk drone was detected leaving the Emirates, flying over the Gulf, and violated Iranian airspace on its return to base.  When contacted for identification information, the drone shut down its transponder, navigation lights and GPS indicating a military aircraft posing a possible threat.  The order was given to shoot down the aircraft using a modified SAM-6 missile system. [photo]  This surface-to-air missile was modified in 2013 with upgraded sensors and improved electronics after the Russians stopped supporting the system. Its capability to overcome drone countermeasures surprised US officials.  Iran's air defense system is probably better than the one encountered in Serbia during Operation Allied Freedom.

Iran's command assured media that its dispersed air defense system is on constant high alert all over the country.  It considers the west's economic blockade to be a form of warfare, and said "Iran shall not stand idly by if signatory countries will not find a way out for Iran to regain its trade, energy and commercial position in the international market...The world should expect more surprises in the coming days because Iranians refuse to starve." The drone was shot down in the same area that the USS Vincennes destroyed an Iranian airliner (Flt 655) killing 290 people on 3 July 1988.

The pseudo-gangster occupying the White House responded to the drone intercept with more economic sanctions targeting Iranian leadership on Monday.  He has pulled the US out of the international agreement reached with Iran to eventually terminate the country's nuclear weapons program.  So the erratic madness of Don Veto Trumpillini is coming ever closer to immersing the United States in another episode of the unending global 'war on terror'. It is absolutely no surprise that the regime is using the Authorization to Use Force Resolution passed in the aftermath of 9/11 to authorize attacks on Iran without a declaration of war by Congress.  A war with Iran would be more costly than the one against Iraq, and would almost certainly involve other nearby nations in the conflict.  Wither Congress' constitutional power to declare war?  Apparently dead letter, along with the power of impeachment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Angola Pledges to Clear Mines

Angola's once plentiful elephant herds were decimated by the country's long civil war. UNITA, backed by the US, slaughtered elephants for their ivory which they sold to South Afirca to buy weapons; displaced civilians killed elephants for food. It finally ended in 2002, but a legacy of that war is still killing elephants--land mines.  Thousands of land mines were laid in the areas of heaviest fighting in the southeast. By one authoritative count fifty-one different mine types, manufactured in eighteen different countries were laid.  Cubango province alone has twenty-two square kilometers of confirmed mine fields.

elephant signals explosives in testing
In the Great Elephant census of 2015, only 3,400 live elephants were counted in Angola.  Enumerators counted carcasses at an alarming rate of 30%, indicating a high level of poaching.  Landmines continue to restrict access to farmland and prevent development such as ecotourism, while encouraging poachers who are willing to risk the dangers for the monetary reward.  A critical area for Angolan elephant survival is the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which allows them to roam historic ranges that cross the Zambia and Botswana borders. The area was designated in 2011 primarily as a conservation zone.

A 2015 expedition mounted by National Geographic to the region found a wealth of biodiversity: 80 species new to science.  The expedition had to be guided by mine clearing experts in heavily mined zones.  According to tracking observations, returning elephants learned to avoid mine fields. A controlled study was conducted in South Africa and sponsored by the US Army to determine an elephant's ability to smell TNT.  In the first round of testing three elephants correctly identified 73 out of 74 samples. [photo]  In the second round, they achieved a perfect score.  Their smell is so acute, it is thought they can smell explosives from 100 meters away, but mine clearance is a human, not an endangered elephant job.

Angola has set a goal of being mine free by 2025.  A national agency has cleared 56% of Angola's known minefields to date.  Organizations depended on international funding have fallen short of funds, with an 80% decline in the last 10 years, partly due to Angola reaching middle income status from the sale of oil, the main export.  Readers may recall that Princess Diana made headlines with her support of mine clearing efforts.  Without more aid Angola will fall short of its 2025 goal.  The country recently announced that a pledge of $60 million to clear mines from Luengue-Liana and Mavinga national parks, prime elephant habitat. Angola wants to make room for its elephants coming home from Zambia and Botswana, and give its people living in the region a brighter economic future.

Monday, June 24, 2019

'Toontime: Mother of All Charts

Now that the Trump regime is foisting yet another Mid-East war on 'Merica, it might be useful to see how much energy this country wastes according to this   flow chart from Lawrence-Livermore. The key here is the light grey flow:


According to the chart, the US wastes 68% of the energy it generates due to system and engine inefficiencies! That is a very large number.  If the nation invested in energy efficiency* instead of war machines, we would not need to protect large amounts of imported oil. Fossil fuels still make up over 80% of the fuel mix.  Inefficiencies lead to more consumption and greater profit, so logical thinking and green technology is declared out of bounds.

*To achieve much needed modernization, not to mention improving defense against cyberattacks, the nation's outdated and inefficient electrical grid should be nationalized.  Green energy producers should be allowed to hook up to the national grid, physically and undeniably an instrument of interstate commerce, at reduced rates to encourage clean energy production. The planet cannot wait for profiteers.

Friday, June 21, 2019

'Toontime: Two Sides of the Same Old Coin

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
Wackdoodle sez: Alcoholism, suicide, and heart attack too!
It is really this republic's great misfortune that national politics has descended to the level of a carnival side show.  US Person is wondering who is the geek in all of this hoopla? Bernie Sanders, perhaps?  At least Bernie has a program beyond empty promises, but he has a century of capitalist propaganda and a rigged primary system to overcome.  As novelist James Elroy said, "America was never innocent."

Meanwhile, on the 'congressional oversight' aka fake impeachment front, Democrats received more spit in the face from another, albeit photogenic, Don Veto loyalist.  Ms. Hope Hicks refused to answer questions in private with a Very White House mouthpiece at her side uttering "objection" every other question--hardly a media showstopper intended to edify the public. Ditto for former mobster and Don Veto business partner, Felix Sater who failed to show for a voluntary, private interview today. Until the Democrats get serious and face the fact they are confronting a political regime modeled on a RICO*, non-cooperation to run out the clock is the name of Don Veto's game.  Each day spent in judicial delay without an impeachment inquiry is a win for the Duck.  Impeachment now, before its too late!

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
BC Idonwanna sez, Cheeseburger comes with that.
*Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization, the landmark federal law that allowed prosecutors to take down the established mob.To think that the 2020 election will be free, fair and put an end to Trump is perhaps the most dangerous delusion of all.  Make America Great Again: take down Don Veto Trumpillini.  US Person asks: Isn't he worse than this man?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Critically Endangered Rhinos Get New Sanctuary

Indonesia announced it will create a third rhino sanctuary for captive breeding of the Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). The center will be located in the Leuser ("looser") Ecosystem at the north end of the island of Sumatra. Indonesia currently has two breeding centers in the south holding a total of eight rhinos. The plan also includes cooperation with Malaysia, which has a collection of frozen rhino eggs; that country recently lost its last male rhino.{28.05.19}. Rhino experts agreed in 2017 that captive breeding was the only way to save the species from certain extinction. Only 30-100 are believed to exist in the wild, and they are hampered by their solitary lifestyle, loss of forest habitat, and low reproductive rate.  Once found across Southeast Asia, rhino was declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015, leaving Indonesia as the only country in the world with a known wild population. A previous effort at captive breeding in the 1980's collapsed when half of the rhinos died without producing offspring.  Since then there has been captive reproductive success in both the US and Indonesia.

female wallows in Way Kambas, credit R.A. Butler
The new sanctuary will allow biologists to avoid the reproductive peril of too many eggs in one basket.  Proximity breeds susceptibility to disease; dispersal of captive breeding animals is a more sustainable solution.  Leuser seems to be an ideal location since remote cameras have photographed 12 wild individuals living there. Captive breeding aims to supplement the wild population with released offspring to bring the population up to a viable level. Because of Leuser's remoteness, poaching is a serious problem that must be solved to protect the existing population and any released rhinos. Officials promise that security will be as strict as the Way Kambas National Park where one of the breeding centers is located. International rhino conservation groups have signed on to the project, agreeing to provide financial support.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Twenty-three Salmon Return Home

San Joaquin delta, credit: Alamy
Because of human exploitation, Chinook salmon disappeared from central California's San Joaquín River some sixty-five years ago.  For thousands of years Chinook made a twice yearly trip in spring and fall over three hundred miles from the Pacific to Sierra Nevadas.  Over two centuries the river was appropriated for agriculture.  Dam building for irrigation purposes caused the river to run dry in places by 1940, disrupting the salmon runs.  This year, twenty-three Chinooks made the spring migration upstream. Not a lot of fish, considering each female can lay 4200 eggs, but it is a milestone for conservation.

released salmon fry, credit NY Times
It took eighteen years of litigation against the federal government to finally settle in 2006 a lawsuit brought by the National Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC).  The agreement calls for salmon to be restored to "good condition", and minimize water diversions.  The state and federal government is planning to spend $650 million to restore flow, wetlands, and fish populations to the San Joaquín.  The twenty-three salmon caught and released represent the first spring run of Chinook up the river since 1950.  Conservationists hope these pioneers are the a sign of recovery despite California's epic drought that dried up the river and destroyed riparian wetlands.  Scientists caught the salmon in nets and took samples before returning them to upland river stretches where salmon historically spawned.  The sampled salmon come from a cohort of 38,106 juveniles release in the upper San Joaquin in March 2017; they probably represent about 100 returning fish helped by the heavy winter rains and snow that ended the drought cycle. 

The river is now continuous and other species are also returning: sturgeon, lamprey, water birds and fish species.  So there are reasons for optimism, but human help overcoming obstacles in the river is not a sustainable model. Part of the river restoration project includes building rock lined ramps that Chinook and other fish can swim up on their way to spawning grounds.  Reconnecting the Chinook with their cool water spawning grounds will become even more important as climate and water temperatures rise.

COTW: Three (Un)Related Charts?

These two charts do not a first glance seem to be related, but if you think about it they both relate to the US economic model and what it is doing to planet Earth, and its own citizens.  The drive for profit off a social good, medicine, has resulted in the world's least efficient health care system for a major western nation (the US does beat out Bulgaria):

credit: Bloomberg

The US spends almost as much as Switzerland on health care per capita, $9,536 versus $9,818. The extra $282 in Switzerland delivers and extra 4.2 years of life expectancy. In the US, life expectancy is actually shrinking, currently at 79. In the Czech Republic life expectancy matches the US, but 'Mericans spend double what the Czechs spend, 16.8% of GDP compared to 7.3%.  Hong Kong topped Bloomberg's list of 56 countries with the most efficient health care system rating of 87.3.

The second chart shows what unrestrained capitalism is doing to the planet's natural systems.  Greenland's ice cap is melting at a furious rate, elevating sea levels worldwide:


The orange areas show regions of surface melting of the ice cap, while gray areas show the ice cap already melted.  The melting will accelerate unless the nations of the world act to keep the carbon emission commitments contained in the Paris Climate Accords which the dictator-to-be has reneged upon, following his time test business methods.  The release of methane and carbon dioxide from melting permafrost and loss of albedo will amplify the greenhouse effect by as much as 5% according to a recent study.  The current trend of warming is 3℃ by the end of the century, enough to release an expected 280 gigatons of CO₂ and 3 gigatons of methane, which is 10 to 20 times stronger greenhouse effect.

So what's the point? as prominent theorists of socialism have pointed out (e.g. Antonio Gramsci) capitalism depends on confidence: people's confidence that capitalism is fair or meritocratic; that capitalism makes them "free".  Bernie Sanders destroyed that illusion in a recent speech, yet 39% of delusional 'Mericans still have the Horatio Alger fantasy that they will be among the 1% someday.  Marx knew that capitalism enslaves the worker since he has no representation or power in the ruling capitalist cliques or stake in the system. Compare an individual's 4012k holdings to the wealth of the Walton family or the holdings of the BlackRock or Vanguard funds. 

Advanced capitalism is doing something else Marx did not foresee: it is destroying the planet's natural systems that are absolutely vital to life on Earth.  In a real democracy this existential threat could be stopped, but 'Mericans do not live in a real democracy.  They live in a plutocratic, authoritarian state that deludes the masses with daily "newspeak" thought control.  So while you work away your life at an underpaid job [chart below] dreaming of fantastic wealth, think about where your next breath of clean air, or drink of clean water will come from, or when the next F5 tornado, or 500 year flood, will wipe out your family home and possessions, and thank capitalism.   The great progressive jurist, Louis D. Brandies correctly observed, We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Diminutive Buffalo Gets Help

On the Philippine island of Mindoro is home to a unique resident, the tamaraw, a species of dwarf buffalo Bubalus mindorensis. It was once found all over the island and perhaps on neighboring Luzon too, but because of human habitation and introduced disease it is restricted to a few grassy areas, numbering about 500. Considered critically endangered by the IUCN, conservationists are rushing to try and save the feisty little buffalo from extinction in the wild in a rare show of consensus.  Filipinos hold the buffalo in high regard in the same way Americans regard the bald eagle.  The species is synonymous with rugged tenacity, a character trait with which Filipinos, given their colonial past, can readily identify.  Several athletic teams have adopted the buffalo, which only stands a meter high at the shoulder, as their mascot.  It is the emblem of Mindoro island and has been proposed as the Philippine terrestrial animal.

a ranger patrols the park
After a well attended workshop about how to save the buffalo, the feeling was widely held that the indigenous people, the Tau-Buid, Buhid, and Alangan, living near the animal are in the best position to save it.  How this goal is to be achieved is still being worked out.  Two priorities seem clear already: protecting tamaraw from bush meat hunters, and protecting their dwindling habitat.  Logging is the human activity that impacts the buffalo the most, but removing an invasive species, the Christmas bush, Chromolaena odorata, which is taking over the grasslands where the last tamaraw live may be equally important.  It grows rampant to over three stories tall and tamaraw do not eat it.  Back in 1996 when conservationists last met there were only two hundred buffaloes in Mounts Iglit-Baco park, [photo,left] now there are 400 after conservation action plan wase put into place.  So there is some hope for growing the existing herd so that relocation to former ranges can take place. Protecting the tamaraw is protecting the Phillipines' future.

Friday, June 14, 2019

'Toontime: Substitute

Face it, the House Judiciary Committee could not book Mueller's appearance, so they invited a circa 1973 substitute, John Dean. The trip down memory lane might have been instructive to those not alive in '73, but it can not replace  Mueller and McGahn testifying about what they know and when they knew it.  The Democrats' "fake impeachment" is doing a 'yuge' disservice to the nation, and playing directly into the hands of the nation's dangerous, phony dictator.  His continued reign is the most divisive factor facing the nation.

This is for you, Nancy: whistling past the cemetery that contains the corpus of democracy, shot to death by Don Veto Trumpillini on 5th Avenue in broad daylight, is NOT demonstrating leadership, it is avoiding constitutionally imposed responsibility for the sake of political convenience.  His crimes are an order of magnitude more serious than Bill Clinton's morality lapses.  Clinton sat for a grand jury interrogation under oath.  Your party cannot even get this administration to produce subpoenaed documents; these process crimes strike at the heart of the administration of justice in this country, summed up in the maxim, "no person is above the law". Thus, any comparison to the Clinton impeachment is misleading.  Do you want to be known to history in the same class as a neurotically irresponsible narcissist that provokes war to distract from his unfitness for public office?  US Person does not think so, but please prove him correct!  If not impeachment now, when?  The tribe has spoken.

credit: Ohman, Sacramento Bee
BC Idonwanna sez:  Insert "sociopathic" after "a"
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,“ wrote Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission. “This is not a novel concept.“  Apparently it is for the amateur in the Very White House.  It is no stretch of imagination to classify political dirt as "something of value" in a presidential election.

Next stop: Tehran.