Thursday, January 31, 2019

Whale Calves Give Hope

Whale calf sightings on both coasts bring hope to those concerned about the survival of two endangered species-- the North Atlantic right whale (E. glacialis) and the resident orcas (Orcinus orca) living in the Pacific Northwest.

The second right whale calf spotted this birthing season was seen off Jacksonville, FL.  The mother #3317 was tentatively identified as one giving birth just 3 years ago, which is good news since that last recorded calving interval for the other mother, #2791,  was nine years.  Right whales migrate between their winter calving grounds and the feeding waters around Cape Cod, which is one reason proposed oil and gas exploration on the eastern OCS would be a disaster for this species, struggling to recover their numbers.  #3317 is estimated to be 16 years old, and was seen in Cape Code Bay several times in 2016. Biologists think the female right whales have not been able to gain enough weight to support a pregnancy. The other concern is that stress from ship noise and entanglements with fishing gear, which the whales can carry around them for years, are stressing the mammals. NOAA estimates that 19 whales died during 2017-2018, five by colliding with ships, and five by drowning after entanglement in fishing gear.  One fact is clear, the whales are not reproducing fast enough to replace their losses. [photo courtesy, NOAA]

Southern resident killer whales are also struggling to survive.  Their number has been shrinking for decades due to the collapse of chinook salmon populations and disappearing habitat.  But the good news is that the group has produced a new member L124 that appears to be healthy. The baby, estimated at three weeks of age, was located swimming with its relatives in Admiralty Inlet at the north end of Puget Sound. Orcas living in undegraded environments are doing well, but the southern residents are suffering from industrialization.  PCBs have been found in killer whale blubber; unfortunately the toxins are passed on to newborns. No calves born since 2015 have survived to maturity.  Miscarriages have also occurred. [photo courtesy, Center for Whale Research]

The southern resident group is divided into three pods, J, K, and L.  L contains 35 members. Orca society is matrilineal with grandmothers living with their daughters' young.  Older orca females also experience menopause, so breeding females are important to maintaining pod continuity.  Orcas will play when they have time to spare from hunting which is taking an increasing amount of their time now.  L pod seemed happy to observers when the baby was found engaging in spy hops, fin slapping and cartwheels. Later in the day, all three pods gathered in the same place.  J35, the mother who made news carrying her dead baby on her head for days seemed to be recovering from her grief, but more bad news awaits: her mother, J17 is hungry and visibly weakening.  It must be distressing for such a tightly knit group of sentient being to experience so much unrelenting mortality.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

COTW: Polar Vortex Slams Midwest

Update:; Seven people have died so far in the frigid weather engulfing the nation's midsection. Chicago's temperature fell to minus 22℉. Windchill is an amazing -49℉, colder than parts of Antarctica. In cold like that frostbite occurs in less than 10 minutes of exposure. People have been advised to stay indoors and bring their pets inside. Snow will fall in significant amounts Wednesday throughout the affected region. US Postal Service has suspended deliveries in ten states. Air and rail transport has been shut down.

{29.01.2019} Chicago will experience the coldest weather on record Tuesday and Wednesday when low temperatures hit minus 15 and 16 ℉.  When wind chill is factored for the "windy city", the cold will be Antarctic class and dangerous to exposed humans.  Here are the charts:

A polar vortex is also termed an arctic cyclone in which high speed winds circle the pole around a center of relatively calm air.  The air temperature in the center could reach -130 ℉. (the coldest recorded air temperature is -129 ℉ in Antarctica) Climate scientists see a possible connection between a polar vortex and melting of the polar ice cap due to global warming. Arctic temperatures have increased at twice the rate of the rest of the globe and could increase another 14 degrees by the end of the century.  A dark, ice free Arctic Ocean, absorbs more sunlight than an ice covered one, which reflects the sun's energy back into space, thus regulating Earth's climate.  The extra absorbed energy weakens the vortex, allowing it to sink farther south, bringing extreme arctic cold to inhabited regions like the Midwest. [charts courtesy of NOAA]

weaker polar vortex on right

Monday, January 28, 2019

More Public Land To Be Fracked

male displays on the lek
Hair Further's regime will auction off 900,000 more acres of public land for fracking purposes in Nevada.  The largest single public auction in the lower 48 is a bad idea because the land involved is situated next to Nevada's only national park and a national wildlife refuge known for its migratory waterfowl resting site. One lease parcel is within one mile of South Ruby Lake.  Great Basin National Park has been designated a "dark sky" park in recognition of its unspoiled night sky and remote location.  Only a few multi-generational ranches are nearby.  That will all change with fracking operations lit by glaring floodlights and routine gas flaring.  The BLM sale is scheduled for March 12th.

The sale further endangers the greater sage grouse, already listed and moves the species closer to extinction.  Fracking on thousands of acres of untouched desert habitat also will impact the survival chances of the desert tortoise, a federally protected species.  The BLM was forced by litigation to defer 400,000 acres of grouse habitat from leasing in October.  The land is now included in the March auction; conservationists accuse the agency of doing the absolute minimum to comply with court orders. What is worse is that the regimes amendments to the sage grouse preservation plans under the previous government strip away mandatory protections to 83 million acres of western landscape, giving states and industries that sued the Obama administration everything they wanted in their lawsuits.  By changing the conservation goal from "net conservation gain" to "no net loss" the anti-environment regime is sealing the fate of a depressed species that absolutely needs large tracts of undisturbed sagebrush habitat to nest and rear broods.  Plan amendments also allow more intensive livestock grazing by removing an objective standard of grass height--7 inches--with the subjective standard of "adequate cover".  The Trump amendments are return to the wild, wild west when only exploiters prosper and the wild can go to hell.

US Behind Venezuelan Coup Attempt

True to its neocolonialist modus operandi, the United States meddled in the attempted Venezuelan coup It's history of manipulating politics in Latin American nations goes back at least to the Spanish-American War. it was revealed by the Wall Street Journal that Vice President Mike Pence called Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Gualdó on the night before he declared himself president, pledging US support for his regime. Nicolás Maduro, the elected president, has accused the US of attempting to foment a coup. The allegation is reasonable considering the circumstances: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has nominated Elliot Abrams to be US special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams, a neoconservative hawk was convicted of lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but was later pardoned. He also defended the Guatemalan dictator General Rios Montt, who conducted a campaign of torture and mass murder against indigenous people in the 1980s. Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams' deplorable record of human rights abuse included CIA  support for a previous Venezuelan coup in 2002 that attempted to topple Hugo Chavez, and not least, the cover-up of mass murder in El Salvador.

Following the United States' lead, several imperial member countries have also recognized Gualdó, including Canada, Australia and Israel. European countries want Maduro to call for elections within a short time period, but so far Maduro has rejected those demands. Maduro is flawed, but he was elected after two years of negotiations with the opposition. The opposition walked out of talks at the last minute according to third-party mediators and witnesses. Maduro went ahead with the agreed upon election. Unsurprisingly, the BRIC nations do not support Gualdó, but neither do nations in the Caribbean basin (CARICOM).

Predictably, Democratic leaders in Congress have given tacit support to the administration's interference in Venezuelan politics. Even the vaunted lone socialist, Bernie Sanders, hesitated to criticize US policy. When he did issue some critical statements, they contained glaring inaccuracies of the state of affairs in Venezuela.  Once again the Untied States in involved in regime change without a plan of action for what comes next. Syria is the latest failure of misguided, interventionist US foreign policy. Support of Syrian rebels prolonged the bloodletting and only succeeded in devastating the country without removing the brutal dictator, Assad. Seventeen years of blood and suffering have passed in Afghanistan before the US was willing to sit down with a Islamic guerrilla movement it could not defeat militarily.  A half million Iraqis are dead as a direct result of United State's imperial designs in the Mideast. Mexico and Uruguay are pursuing a more rational course towards Venezuela: negotiating a political settlement. The US should join in that effort, and stop more than a century of dictating to Latin American governments.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Endangered Species Act Works!

Radical conservatives constantly malign the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as failing to protect endangered species; therefore, it needlessly burdens extraction industries with constrictive regulations.  New research published in an online scientific journal, PLoS ONE says NOT.

Marine mammals and sea turtles comprise 62 of the 163 marine species currently under protection of the ESA.  The Center for Biological Diversity collected annual population figures for the sixty-two species to determine trends and magnitudes of population changes.  To focus their observations, the research team chose 23 representative populations of fourteen mammal species, and eight samples of five turtle species.  All of them breed in US territorial waters, and have been listed under ESA since before 2012. Their results are impressive, and lay waste to exploiters' claims that ESA does not work and should be revised, if not discarded altogether. More than three-fourths of the studied populations showed substantial increases in size. Only two protected marine mammal populations showed declines.

The species showing increase in numbers were those enjoying legal protection for twenty years or more, once again contradicting complaints that once listed remains there in perpetuity. In fact some species have been de-listed after recovery. Case studies of successful rebounds include the Hawaiian humpback whale, western Stellar sea lions, and North Atlantic green sea turtles. [photo] The authors note that for green sea turtles, “ESA regulations have led to fishing gear modifications, major changes in fishing practices, time and area closures, and the establishment of turtle exclud[ing] devices for shrimp trawlers." They conclude, “Our results also support previous studies that highlight the capacity of marine mammals and sea turtles to rebound from decades of exploitation after coordinated national and international conservation efforts.” Too bad Nature does not work fast enough to suit greedy capitalists anxious to plunder the Earth's remaining treasures.

Friday, January 25, 2019

'Toontime: The Frank Pentangili Moment

credit Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
Wackydoodle sez: He'll make an offer he can't refuse!
This week in the Russian Connection investigation, Paul Manafort is scheduled to appear in DC federal court to answer charges that he repeatedly lied to the Special Counsel. Manafort is supposed to be sentenced for guilty pleas to obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He was not charged for other admitted crimes, because federal prosecutors agreed not to charge him in return for his cooperation with investigators. Manafort's lawyers claim that any misstatements made by Manafort during his extensive questioning are the result of illness and exhaustion, not intentional lies. But his lawyers made a 'yuge' error by mistakenly revealing in filed court documents that Manafort shared polling data with a Russian-Ukranian businessman who has Kremlin connections.

The indictment of long-time conservative activist¹ and Trump ally, Roger Stone, has been expected, and was unsealed on Friday.  Stone was arrested in the pre-dawn darkness by unpaid FBI agents at his home in Ft. Lauderdale. The seven count indictment--including witness tampering--says Stone told Trump senior campaign officials about future release of Wikileaks material damaging to his political opponent. Stone replied in response to a senior official's email (identified as Steve Bannon, according to the New York Times) that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had a “serious security concern” but that the group would start releasing “a load every week going forward." The intercepted emails were given to Wikileaks by a Russian on-line intelligence operation code-named Guicifer 2.0. Stone used fringe-journalist Randy Credico as his intermediary to Julian Assange's Wikileaks organization. Credico is the Congressional witness Stone is accused of encouraging to lie during his testimony. Stone told Credico to "do a Frank Pentangili", referring to the classic mob movie, The Godfather, Part II. Who could possibly have imagined that a unprofessional candidate for the land's highest government office would emulate a fictional mobster² while conducting his campaign and presidency? Not US Person!

credit: M. Streeter, Savannah Morning News
BC Idonwanna sez;  Consigliere & Liz full of buffalo dung!
¹The man is reported to have a tatoo of Richard Nixon on his back!
² Where did Individual I learn the ways of American mobsters--not all from Hollywood movies that is certain.  Trump was represented for many years by lawyer Roy Cohn who made his name as the chief aide to Senator McCarthy, and later as a leading mob attorney. Cohen met Individual I at a Manhattan club in the '70s where the scion of a real estate fortune had a major legal problem--prosecution by the Justice Department for housing discrimination. Trump's company would red-line rental applications with a "C" for "colored". Cohn settled the case, but his client never admitted responsibility. Trump was immersed in the Manhattan real estate market for many years, a market with considerable mob participation. An example: Trump Tower in Manhattan was built with concrete, an unusual choice of materials since most Manhattan buildings of the '80s were built with structural steel. The mob controlled the concrete business, and the construction unions in New York, so favors were required to get concrete poured on time. Cohen introduced his client to his mafioso connections; Trump subsequently thanked Cohn for his help getting the project built.  But wait, there's more: The previous building on the site, the Bonwit Teller building, was demolished using illegal Polish immigrants brought in from Rochester, NY; they were never paid for their labor.  Individual I's instincts match Roy Cohn's--always on the offensive, never admitting guilt, and doing whatever it takes to win. ; A documentary film producer said of Cohn, "he used his brilliance for mostly the dark arts of manipulation and self-enrichment" Sound familiar? It should because Hair Further is still using the same cruel tactics with his current employees. Undocumented workers at his Westchester Golf Club, despite being exemplary employees, were brought on the carpet and fired one by one.  Now the fired workers are speaking out, saying Trump fully knew they did not have proper immigration papers when he hired them. Individual I at one point declared Cohn to he his "best friend".  But he was not in sight when Cohn was finally disbarred, not long before he died of AIDS.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

COTW: 'Witch Hunt' No More

More 'Mericans now think the two year investigation into Individual I's Russian Connection is justified.   The majority includes an overwhelming number of persons who identify as Democrats and almost half of Independents.  Of course people who admit to being Repugnant are deep in La-La Land of Denial at only 14%.

This week in the investigation, snitch extraordinaire, Michael Cohen, postponed his anticipated appearance before House Oversight and Intelligence Committees to testify.  His reason: threats against his family by members of the Trump legal team, including former federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliani.  Cohen alleged through his attorney Lanny Davis that the threats are real and have particularly upset his wife and father-in-law.  Cohen was scheduled to voluntarily testify in public on  February 7th.  He goes to prison on March 6th.  Democratic chairmen of the two committees issued a statement saying the attempts at intimidation were "textbook mob tactics" which they condemn, but "we expect Mr. Cohen to appear before both Committees, and we remain engaged with his counsel about his upcoming appearances," they added, "not appearing before Congress was never an option."

Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Toontime: Don's Dish

credit: John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez:  Me like'm treason sauce!

You choose, psycho-drama at the border, or tit-for-tat politicos in the Swamp. Persona Non Grata is following this news string: the latest bombshell from Michael Cohen. cites two federal investigators as sources for the story that Michael Cohen told the Special Counsel he was directed to lie to Congress by the President about the Moscow tower project. Cohen alleged that he gave the Trump family regular detail reports about his efforts to "make it happen" in Moscow as directed by Individual I. He was told to lie that the negotiations ending months earlier then they actually did. What is important about this allegation is that it was discovered by the Special Counsel through independent sources, and only subsequently corroborated by Cohen himself. Please add suborning perjury to the mounting list of Individual I's high crimes and misdemeanors.  Cohen was sentenced in December on federal felony charges that included lying to Congress.

In another development, House investigators have requested interviews with the Russian translator Marina Gross employed by Trump during his meetings with President Putin in Helsinki. Another translator was employed at a meeting with Putin in Germany, but Individual I demanded his notes and presumably scrubbed them of incriminating material. "I don’t know whether or not the commander in chief is a Russian asset, but it’s frightening that we even have to ask that question,” US Representative Seth Moulton told the Boston Globe editorial board on Monday. “We have a fundamental responsibility to our national security to investigate and get to the bottom of exactly what is going on.” Individual I's behavior towards the Russian President appears increasing odd, especially during a period when a counter-intelligence investigation was being conducted by the FBI.  Mueller's office issued a Watergate-style "non-denial denial" of the report, saying only aspects of the report were inaccurate.  BuzzFeed is standing behind its reporting, asking the Special Counsel to clarify what is inaccurate about the story.

credit: Ed Wexler
Wackydoodle sez: Can y'all show me the yellow brick road?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Too Proud to Die in Captivity

credit: P Hankinson
South Africa's government will appoint a high-level panel to review the status of the country's captive lion breeding program.  Lion advocates consider the industry to be inhumane and degrading.  South Africa is only one of seven countries with substantial lion populations in the wild.  Around 7000 lions are held captive in breeding facilities.  These are raised for slaughter by humans for their bones--considered by the misinformed superstitious to have medicinal qualities or for execution in so-called "canned hunts" in which lions raised in captivity met their end in an enclosure at the hands of poor imitation of a hunter.  Some are donated to other countries without lions or relocated to areas were lions have been exterminated.  An influential big-game hunting group, Safari Club has condemned the practice, saying canned hunting has "doubtful value to conservation of lions in the wild."  It has announced it will no longer promote or auction canned hunts.  Other hunting groups have also spoken out against trophy hunting of captive bred lions.

The decision to establish a review panel comes after a report to Parliament tabled by the Environmental Portfolio Committee.  The report concluded that a the trade in lion bones and trophy hunting should be ended.  The Committee's chairperson said the practises were "compromising South Africa's conservation reputation" since it primarily benefits a small group of breeders without a scientific basis.  A vast majority of South Africans agree according to polling data.  The Commission will conduct public hearings, consider scientific evidence and present findings to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, which holds its next meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 23 to June 3.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

COTW: Shutdown Is MAGA

These charts sum up the extent of the record government shutdown. By one estimate it will cost the US over $6 billion, not to mention the costs, emotional and financial, experienced by furloughed workers:

Trump's lockout is the longest on record. 75% of the government is funded through September, but the 25% that is closed includes important functions like training air traffic controllers, and coastguard officers, food stamps, food safety inspections, superfund remediation, national park service and more.  Seven outstanding spending bill remain stalled that affect nine departments including the Treasury and Justice.  420,000 federal employees are working without pay. If the shutdown continues for two more weeks, it will cost the country more than $6 billion, more than the absurd cost estimates provided by the regime for the Trump's wall.

Of course this development will be used by White House flacks to deride Democrats in the House who refuse to pay for a monument to Individual I's egomania. Notably the Defense Department, which is the only government function reactionary conservatives really care about because it provides so much profit to capitalists, is unaffected by the shutdown:

charts provided by
US Person supports Democratic efforts to reopen the government by moving the spending bills held captive by Repugnants, without funding Trump's insulting, misguided folly.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Wolves in Oregon--No Agreement Yet

collared female, courtesy ODFW
The Oregon state Fish & Wildlife Department (ODFW) informs us that no agreement has been reached between conservationists and "stakeholders" (translation: ranchers and hunters) about when grey wolves suspected of preying on livestock may be killed.  The revised Wolf Management Plan is to be presented to the Commission in March.  Some progress was reported on topics such as funding for enhanced modeling and wolf collaring, but not on critical issues, including the number of preying incidents that will allow lethal removal of wolves when non-lethal means have failed.  Conservationists represented by Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife announced Jan. 4th that they would not attend the final meeting of interested parties.  An ODFW official said the opposing interest groups, "remain passionate about their positions, so consensus is challenging to achieve".

Currently Oregon's wolf management plan allows only two confirmed "depredations" within an unlimited time frame before culling by the department or a permitted landowner will be allowed.  Typically, ODFW authorizes lethal removal after three or more confirmed depredations. Thankfully, ODFW has denied more lethal removal requests for wolves than it has approved. Wolf advocates want to see the kill standard replaced by a rule more rigorously objective, and measured within a limited time frame.  Since the first wolf management plan was introduced in 2005, hunting of wolves has been a potential tool for controlling wolf populations in the state.  ODFW has no current plans to begin hunting wolves, which are only beginning to recover in Oregon.  US Person, and other wolf advocates, think hunting of wolves should NOT be considered a permissible management tool for a species still threatened by extinction.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

'Toontime: Psycho-Drama at the Border

credit: Dave Grunlund
Wackdoodle sez, I'ma gittin my tin hat too!

US Person will not allow himself to be diverted by the psycho-drama at the border.  Dear reader, just ask yourself this: is it a symptom of mounting national schizophrenia that a nation can hail a historic monument to immigrants and their contributions to our society at the entrance to New York's harbor, and at the same time build a grotesque monstrosity, symbolic of oppression and racial hatred on its southern boarder, or is it merely gross mismanagement? The delusional nabob occupying the White House with the help of a foreign power [see below] claims that his folly will help suppress drug trafficking. That assertion flies in the face of facts. Any honest drug enforcement official will tell you that most drug trafficking takes place at ports of entry, not in the deserted borderlands where he insists on erecting a monument to his own ego. Repugnants know the wall is ridiculous; they only refer to the project it in public by the rational sounding euphemism of "border security". Border insecurity is more accurate.

The real news developments this week are in the Russian Connection investigation, and they are significant.  Thanks to the efforts of the Center for American Progress, that analyzed court documents in the investigation, Trump officials had over 100 contacts with Russian officials, some whom have ties to Russian intelligence and Vladimir Putin. Paul Manafort and and aide shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, his Ukrainian business partner and Putin supporter. Those within Trump's team who had contacts with Russian-linked officials include Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen, former Trump adviser Roger Stone, the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump.  So much for the repeated claims of the investigation being labeled a "witch-hunt".  One more example of his continuous mendacity ("Mexico will pay for the Wall") which he intends as a substitute for reality*

credit: Damien Giez
Profile in Fascism: Donito Trumpillini
*Hannah Arendt, political theorist and emigre from Nazi Germany, told us in her classic, The Origins of Totalitarianism, “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.” 1984 has arrived--just twenty-five years late. As predicted in a previous post, Hair Further is threatening to use extraordinary "emergency powers" to end a pseudo-crisis he created in part to divert media, and thereby the public's short attention, from the daily story of his corruption and collusion. Think martial law in the United States is a fantasy? Think again. Lincoln used it when the country actually faced a real existential crisis--the Civil War.  But the Insurrection Act of 1807 is still on the books, and in 2006 Congress broaden the Executive's authority to use federal troops to "restore order" . And Individual I is just demented enough to attempt to use it to preserve his his term of office. Another ace up his sleve--he now has a conservative majority on the Supreme Court thanks to his appointment of right-winger Brett Kavanaugh. It is absoultely chilling to remember that both Mussolini and Hitler used emergency pqwers granted to them under their respective laws to rise to absolute power.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

COTW: Where the Crime Is

Reactionaries inevitably drag crime into the debate over the folly in the desert.  Look at this chart and see, crime committed by immigrants is another red herring.  White supremacy is the unspoken motivation for a building wall that will not work:

credit: Mother Jones

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Argentina Protects Marine Habitat

a white anemone in protected waters, credit WCS
Argentina created two new massive marine parks--32,818 sq. miles--in the southwest Atlantic, Yaganes and Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank II.  The parks are located in a boundary area between cold Southern Ocean waters and more temperate Atlantic waters.  The swellings of cold seawater create zones of impressive biodiversity. The Wildlife Conservation Society called the designations an impressive achievement of democratic debate.  The Argentinian House voted unanimously for the designation, and the Senate followed with confirmation on December 5th.  These designations bring Argentina closer to the 8% of its coast seas protected under commitments to international conservation goals.  The Aichi Targets recommenced that countries commit 10% of their jurisdictional seas to conservation by 2020.

Argentina created its first offshore park, Namuncurá-Burdwood Bank I, in 2013.  WCS helped to fund the technical work needed to establish baseline data and the very concept of offshore underwater parks.  WCS has been involved with protecting the lands and seas of Patagonia, a unique ecosystem, since the 1970's. Dr. Claudio Campagna, director of WCS’s Patagonian Sea and Sky Project and president of the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea said the creation of, “parks of sea and sky in which an immense quantity of penguins and albatrosses, wolves and marine elephants, sharks, rays, cold corals and many other species, will be able to fulfill their life cycles in peace and as nature mandates.  Green Kudos to Argentina!

Saturday, January 05, 2019

'Toontime: The Road to Impeachment

credit: Rick McKee, Augusta Chronicle
Democratic Congressional leaders are making cautious public statements about the possibility of impeaching Individual I.  That is to be expected, given an incredulous 40% of 'Mericans still support the erstwhile wall builder.  The politicians need to do more fact-finding in order to build a credible case for taking out a sitting, albeit, minority president.  Lincoln was elected with only 40% of the public's support.  But the more they look into his shady business dealings, the worse it is going to get for Mr. Yuge.  His tax records will be subpoenaed, and the investigation broaden into areas not covered by Mr. Mueller, who's investigation is still on-going; the grand jury handing down indictments in the Russian Connection investigation was recently extended.  As the shutdown drags on with ramifications for the economy at large, pressure from the Democratic base will grow to remove this obstructionist in the White House willing to risk civil disorder to get his way on a ridiculous scheme to keep out brown people.   As the old saying goes, "if you're brown turn around"; the wall carries an unmistakable message.  Individual I has few friends on the Hill, and he keeps making more enemies as time passes.  Only a cynical, reactionary narcissist could label a lockout of 800,000 government employees, a "strike".

credit: Jimmy Margulies
Honoré de Balzac: Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente
 est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait--Le Père Goriot

Friday, January 04, 2019

COTW: Global Wealth Concentration & The Bear

This chart shows the extreme concentration of wealth among a tiny portion of the world population.  As can be seen from the top of the chart, less than 1% of the world's population control $128.7 trillion of the world's total wealth estimated at $280 trillion.  At the bottom end of the distribution, 70% of the world's people have less than $10,000 in wealth.  They control just $7.6 trillion:

credit: Visual
It is no secret that the elites' wealth comes primarily from financial investments and resource exploitation.  Many stock market watchers think that the market is ending a very old bull market of ten years duration.  This chart shows that the Dow's recent gyrations, after reaching the highest point in market history, in April have wiped out the year's gain:

The bear cometh, beware the bear!

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Two More Puget Sound Orcas May Die

a southern Orca breaches with Mt Baker as a backdrop
Puget Sound orcas are undergoing a dark passage:  their numbers are dwindling and observers say the cause is mostly starvation. {10.11.14} Observers say two more orcas may die by this summer.  The southern residents went into winter thinner than they were went arriving from the San Juan Islands last summer according to photographs taken by monitoring drones.  The northern group is faring better with more food and cleaner, more quiet waters.  This group produced ten calves this year.  Several southerners were documented as pregnant in 2018, but no calves have been located.  A mother, named Talequah, was seen grieving her dead calf for days, keeping it above water with her head and carrying it for 1,000 miles.  The southern group's population is at a thirty-five year low.

Photos taken on New Year's Eve show J17, a breeding forty-two year old female is suffering from a deformity called "peanut head", known to be a symptom of starvation.  K27, a twenty-seven year old male is also failing.  He lost his mother in 2017, and is not foraging successfully for himself.  The southern whales have a cultural tradition of mothers helping their pod, especially sons to feed.  Three southern orcas died in four months last year.  Now only seventy-four individuals remain in the population.  The only question that remains is what will man do to save these sentient mammals from extinction.  Man has a clear responsibility in these tragic circumstances.  His pollution, resource exploitation and noise generation has made it much more difficult for these chinook salmon-eating orcas to compete with other marine predators and thrive.

Only 185,862 chinook made past Bonneville Dam on the Columbia--sixty-five percent below the ten year average.  The Frasier River's run that enters the Sound is also declining.  To his credit, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington has asked for $1.1 billion to help the endangered population.  The funds including study of ways to breach the lower Snake river dams to increase salmon runs, among other measures to improve their habitat.  Actions speak louder than words, however, and action is needed quickly before the last southern orca disappears forever.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

WWF tells of Eco Wins in 2018

US Person thinks it correct to begin a New Year with stories from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) about successful wildlife and ecosystem conservation around the globe.  Caveat:  one negative development is included just so you do not get too comfortable and stop fighting for other creatures that have a right to exist on Earth:
  • The mountain kingdom of Nepal is on track to meet the 2010 Year of the Tiger {21.01.10} commitment to double its tiger population by 2022.  An estimated 235 tigers now live in the small Himalayan nation;
  • Thanks to citizen lobbying organized by WWF, Congress maintained funding for important grassland conservation measures in its annual "Farm Bill" to enhance soil, boost sustainable practices, and preserve important wildlife habitat.  According to WWF the Great Plains has lost 1.7 million acres to agriculture last year and nearly 60 million since 2009.  The measures include financial support for farmers that continue to improve their environmental performance;
  • Mountain gorillas living in the Virunga Massif continue to increase in number despite existential threats from man. A recent survey shows that gorilla numbers stand at 604 up from 480 in 2010.  Globally about 1000 mountain gorillas now survive in wild.
  • Spiny lobster fishers in the Caribbean received good news: their harvest of spiny lobsters was declared sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.  It is the first Caribbean fishery to receive the designation;
  •  Because Belize took several significant protection actions this year to preserve its famous barrier reef, it has been removed from UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in Danger during the organization's meeting in Bahrain.  Belize placed a moratorium on oil and gas exploration on the reef in response to a citizens' initiative to protect their diverse natural heritage;
  •  WWF helped three nations, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, to establish a reserve protecting the unique Pantanal ecosystem.  The Pantanal is the world's largest tropical wetland;
  • Columbia created the world's largest protected tropical rain forest by expanding to 10.6 million acres the Serranía de Chiribiquete national park.  UNESCO has declared the park a world heritage site.  The designation culminates decades of work by WWF and the Colombia government to protect this important natural resource.
Now that you have savored the good news here is the bad: Japan has dropped all pretense of "scientific research" and rejected the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling.  Japan announced the decision last week; it will begin hunting in its 200 mile exclusive economic zone in July.  The nation sought to justify its callous action by blaming the Commission for failing to live up to its 1946 mandate to find a balance between whale stocks and "the orderly development of the whaling industry."  It is unfortunate Japan's government is willing to risk international condemnation by continuing to subsidize an obsolete and unnecessary industry based on the inhumane exploitation of sentient marine mammals.  Japan did concede that it would respect "catch limits" based on IWC calculations.

Reaction to the announcement from member nations was swift and negative.  Both Australia and New Zealand governments expressed their disappointment with the decision.  Reaction from whale conservationists was stronger: Japan is now a "pirate nation", said the president of the International Humane Society.  The international Environmental Investigation Agency said Japan's lack of "multilateralism" sets a bad precedent that may encourage other countries to follow Japan out of the whaling ban.  Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales.  According to statistics from EIA and the Animal Welfare Institute, these three countries have killed 38,539 whales since the international ban went into effect in 1986.

Inevitably, cultural differences have entered the dispute.  Whale hunting in the west is now viewed as cruel and unnecessary.  However Japan apparently considers such qualms hypocritical while pointing to the cruelties of the Occident's industrial agriculture.  Whale meat was an important source of protein in the aftermath of WWII, but it is much less popular now.  So industry is heavily subsidized by the government; it argues that the consumption of whale meat is traditional with a history going back centuries. Discarding the pretense of whale research--found unjustified by the International Court of Justice in 2012--to commercially hunt whales puts Japan in a weaker legal position if member nations decide to sue to stop the practice in the International Court of Justice.