Thursday, February 28, 2019

Will History Repeat Itself in Venzuela?

The US meddling in Venezuela’s political crisis continues unabated.  The latest episode being the predictable and hypocritical violence created by the USAID delivery at the Colombian border.  The CIA, which is backing the National Assembly pretender Juan Guaido, knew that an attempt to provide humanitarian aid against the orders of President Maduro had a high probability of fomenting violence.  Guaido and his supporters had no way of getting the aid into Venezuela--an air drop within Venezuela's borders might have been more effective, but the optics of such a clear violation of national sovereignty would, at this point, be unacceptable. Nevertheless, the meddlers got the intended result when four protesters were killed by the Venezuelan military, which overwhelmingly supports the elected president of their country.  Even the International Red Cross would not sanction the politicized aid, criticizing the creation of a media spectacle.  Given the deaths, cue statements from Hair Further about “all options being on the table”, codewords for US military intervention.  Make no mistake, Venezuela is no Grenada--its military is well-equipped and loyal to the Bolivarian revolution.  It is all so disgusting, repetitious, and anti-democratic.

The United States has a history of interfering in Venezuela’s affairs stretching back to 1895 when Secretary Richard Olney extended the 1822 Monroe Doctrine to include determining a boundary dispute between Venezuela and British Guiana.  Olney felt no qualms about respecting other nation’s sovereignty when he said,  “Today, the United States is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law…” Thus, the empire and its southern protectorate began.  The United States has militarily invaded Latin American and Caribbean countries 96 times, including 48 times in the 20th century. That total constitutes only direct interventions and doesn’t include coups fomented by the U.S., such as Guatemala in 1954 and Chile in 1973.  Fast-forward to this century when the CIA attempted to overthrow hugely popular Hugo Chavez in 2002, a coup that lasted three days before fizzing out.  An estimated $100 million has been poured into Venezuela to subvert its elected government.  Venezuela is not long for the Grenada-Panama treatment, overseen by the Reagan-era war criminal, Elliot Abrams, and extreme neo-conservative John Bolton. 

Apologists for US intervention this time point to the economic mess and human suffering caused by a corrupt economy, a near worthless currency, and falling oil prices.  No mention is made of the crippling US sanctions against the national oil company contributing to the economic crisis in a country heavily dependent on oil revenue.  They claim the repeated election of President Nicolás Maduro is illegitimate because the elections were not fair.  No less a figure than former president Jimmy Carter said Venezuelan elections are among the fairest in the world.  A coalition of Canadian unions, church leaders and other officials declared the last election of Maduro to be “transparent, secure, democratic and orderly.” The fact is that the political opposition lead by Juan Guaido boycotted the election they agreed to and then asked the UN not to send observers. Juan Guaido has never run for the presidency and is largely unknown to the public, but is known to the CIA which funds his conservative Voluntad Popular party.  No wonder Maduro calls him the “US Puppet”.

At the base of the Venezuelan political system are communal councils, a participatory democracy, enshrined in its constitution that was amended during Hugo Chavez’s tenure in office.  Before those, two political parties of racial elites and friends of the imperium ruled for forty years.  Torture, corruption and assassinations were rife.  Eighty percent of the population made up of indigenous and African descent lived in abject poverty. However, it is nothing new for the imperial United States to exercise a hypocritical “fiat” against democratically elected governments its does not like.  Enshrined in its Declaration of Independence, are the words “all men are created equal”. Perhaps that should have read, “All landowning, white males are created equal”; that language would have been closer to the truth. So now Hair Further is president of a 'democracy' having lost the last popular referendum by 3 million votes.  "Regime change" should begin at home.  Tell the Very White House: hands off Venezuela!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

COTW: The Signature of a Disturbed Person

"Diffused writing so large that the letter formations are distorted is a sign of a mind that does not think clearly.  It often resembles a negative out of focus...In its extreme, it is the handwriting of a mentally disturbed person...Mental confusion is indicated in handwriting that shows great disorder and is disturbing to the eye, but this type of illegibility is in a class by itself, and we may be dealing with the mental and emotional disturbances of psychoneurotics"
[i.e. egotistical, introverted sociopath*]--Nadya Olyanova, Handwriting Tells, 1969

* Referred to as antisocial personality disorder (APD) in the DSM-5, under "Cluster B". The DSM-5 is the prevailing diagnostic tool used in the United States. Signs of a narcissistic sociopath:Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements);Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited power (president for life Trump), success, brilliance, beauty or ideal love; Believes he is “special” and can only be understood by similarly special, high status people;Requires excessive admiration;Has a sense of entitlement; Is exploitative in relationshipa;Lacks empathy;Is envious of others or believes others are envious of him;Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Ventura County Steps Up

Wildlife corridors are vitally necessary to help animals cope with man's seeming endless alteration of the landscape.  US Person has written before about this species saving land use in this space. {05.09.13}  Ventura County, California, wedged into the burgeoning megalopolis of LALA land, has made a life affirming decision to provide wildlife space for travel between natural areas despite intense opposition from a public whipped into a frenzy by right-wing organizers.

At a Planning Commission hearing which lasted five hours, opponents became vocal in their opposition. One citizen even resorted to a threat during the public comment period, shouting that County’s planners and planning commissioners “should be taken out and shot." The death threat was duly noted for the record, and sheriffs deputies whisked the overwrought citizen out of the hearing room. No doubt he will be booked for disturbing the peace or some other appropriate misdemeanor.  Another tactic used by opponents was labeling.  "Wildfire corridor" is what they branded the proposal, contrary to the ecological evidence that landscape left in a natural state is more resistant to fire than land cleared and then invaded by highly inflammable weeds. Despite the fierceness of the opposition, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan to create a corridor, but given the frontier mentality of those opposed, it will undoubtedly end up in the state supreme court on the grounds that the regulations prohibiting development constitute an "unconstitutional taking of land". Hello--have the MAGA people heard of the Wall of Shame?

William Wendt ,1915
Perhaps the greatest threat to wildlife survival in California are the network of freeways and highways that cross-cross the state, fragmenting remaining habitat. These rivers of concrete deter animals from foraging and reproducing naturally, thereby reducing genetic diversity and a specie resiliency. A good example of these effects are the cougars that still hang on the hills surrounding the LA basin. {08.12.18} A leading scientist, Paul Beier, on the subject of habitat fragmentation wrote a treatise, Missing Linkages: Restoring Connectivity to the California Landscape, 2000 which has proven influential. California biologists decided at a 2000 conference in San Diego that corridors are needed as an antidote to anthropogenic habitat modification. One outcome of this thinking is the proposed overpass of the Ventura Highway (US 101) in the Agoura Hills area. When completed it will be the largest wildlife crossing in the United States connecting habitat in the Santa Monica mountains with Los Padres National Forest. The fifty-foot wide vegetated crossing will allow mule deer, mountain lion, bobcat, grey fox, and badger to fully share the landscape with humans.

Much less urban Washington state is already building wildlife crossings as part of refurbishing I-90 at Snoqualamie Pass.  The project is planned to include 32 medium size crossings, and two large bridges.  The first major wildlife underpass is complete at Gold Creek.  The crown jewel of a wildlife overpass at Noble Creek is building, scheduled to be completed in 2021.  The project has cost $525 million as of 2014, funded by a voter approved gas tax.  It has proved to be an engineering challenge, because the design is intended to mimic natural habitat. [photo left]  The 15 mile project spans diverse habitats and two ecotones, from the state's dry interior to the wet coastal zone.  I-90 splits the state on an east-west axis, so crossings are vital to the survival of deer, elk, mountain goats, bobcats, black bears, foxes, mink, otters, cougars and wild turkeys.

The decision by the Ventura Planning Commission in the face of seething anger is courageous, but it is also supported by impeccable science and a century of conservation tradition in this country. Now faced with the existential threat of global warming, preserving natural landscape is a more important goal than ever. Other jurisdictions with remaining wildlife populations should pay attention to the action of Ventura County and make decisions that support the survival of Earth's other inhabitants. The specie we save may be our own.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Rights of Nature: Lake Erie

One of the most abused lakes of North America, Lake Erie, may soon enjoy a new, elevated status.  US Person has advocated previously in this space {02.10.17, Rights of Nature}, about a legal concept that is novel in Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence, but recognized elsewhere in the world.  That is giving legal status to animals and natural features in order to protect them from extinction, pollution and over-exploitation.  Tomorrow the citizens of Toledo, Ohio, a once industrial metropolis that was a major source of lake degradation, will vote on a city charter amendment that gives a body of water, Lake Erie and its watershed, legal rights.  If passed it would be the first law of its kind in the US.

An activist supporter of LEBOR (Lake Erie Bill of Rights) says the law will give citizens legal standing to protect the lake through human representation in court since, "the government isn’t going to do this for them". The law is controversial. It pits farmers whose agricultural run off continues to pollute the lake against city people who rely on it for potable water. The Catch-22 is that much of the pollution is legal.  Farmers hold EPA permits to discharge field runoff contaminated with a toxic cocktail of fertilizers and pesticides.

environmental protest, '68
In the late 60s the lake was so polluted, the media dubbed it dead; dead fish washed up on its shores with regularity. [photo left] After the passage of environmental protection laws like the Clean Water Act of 1972, and almost a half century later, Lake Erie water quality is much improved. But in 2014 a algae bloom caused by too much nitrogen from agricultural runoff made 100 people ill, and the city was without drinking water for three days. Fights broke out in the August heat over buckets of clean water. 2017 saw another record algal bloom, the third largest. Global warming will undoubtedly cause more of these toxic outbreaks, researchers estimate.  Some citizens feel helpless to stop the continued pollution of the lake.

Activists heard about the concept of "the Rights of Nature" enshrined in law elsewhere in the world (i.e. Bolivia, Ecuador, and Lafayette, CO). So they decided to think outside of the box by proposing a law giving legal status to their water supply.  It was not easy to get the proposal before the voters of Toledo.  Supporters had to struggle for two years, all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court before the measure was approved for a vote.  Predictably, conservative business interests have pushed back. labeling supporters "out of state extremists", "anti-business", and "Erie doesn't pay taxes."  US Person has heard it before, but everyone--red or blue--has to drink water to survive.  The state has an obligation to protect the public's health. When it fails to do so, citizens in a democracy must act to protect themselves.

Giant Bee of Indonesia Rediscovered

Since first being described in 1858 by the great naturalist Henry Wallace, who is known for independently developing the theory of evolution through natural selection, scientists lost track of Wallace's giant bee, Megachile pluto. It was last officially reported in 1981 on the island of Bacan.  An expedition to locate the rare living giant bee was undertaken in January.  The researchers met with success on their last foray into the forest, when a female was found occupying her nest in an elevated termite mound, their favorite site.  These bees are hard to miss: jet black and the size of a man's thumb.  She has impressive mandibles too, "like a stag-beetle" according to Wallace.  It uses the mandibles to collect tree resin, which it forms into balls and carries with the large jaws. The bee's nests are multi-chambered and communal.

a giant bee compared to a European honey bee, (composite)
One of the researchers' Indonesian guides climbed a tree to look inside a termite mound about eight feet off the ground.  He found a wet and sticky nest inside.  Giant bees line their nest with resin to protect their offspring from termites.  A entomologist from Princeton University with the team confirmed it was the nest of Megacile pluto.  The rare find was quickly documented by the team photographer, Clay Bolt [above]  Scientists are not the only ones who know about the existence of Wallace's giant bee in the Northern Moluccas.  In March 2018 a US collector sold a specimen for $9100 on eBay.  In September, 2018 another specimen was auctioned for $4150.  The researchers who located the wild bee hope that images of thisL remarkable species, about which there is little data, will inspire more research.  Their expedition was organized by Global Wildlife Conservation as part of its "lost 25 species" program.  Wallace' giant bee is certainly not lost to unscrupulous collectors who already know the bee is out there.

Friday, February 22, 2019

'Toontime: Say It Ain't So

Amid renewed rumors perpetrated by the CMM that journeyman prosecutor Robert Mueller is on the verge of wrapping up his investigation of the Russian Connection to Hair Further's minority election, it is well to remember we have been here before.  Are the rumors intended to apply political pressure on Mueller as he appears to be honing in on the truth of a classic agitprop operation by the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) that was abetted if not aided by the next president of the United States and his minions?  Just look at this chart, which shows the number of times the King of Debt has disparaged a legitimate counter-espionage investigation:

Individual I has not stopped at just twitting. He has installed loyalists in key posts to protect him. Mathew Whittaker was inserted after Individual I fired Jeff Sessions, who made the mistake of recusing himself (properly) from oversight of the Special Counsel. Whittaker publicly admitted he is supposed to "jump on a grenade" for Trump. But even he drew the line at complying with Trump's request to put another minion, Geoffrey S. Berman, in charge of the Southern District of New York investigation of finances.  Whittaker knew that Berman had already recused himself for routine reasons.  But the King of Debt knows no shame.  The Southern District's investigation is perhaps more legally challenging to his continuation in office because it is a criminal investigation beyond the purview of executive privilege.  The SDNY may even be so bold as to ignore DOJ guidance of not indicting a sitting president.

Paul Manafort is receiving the double wammy too: even if the hard guy gets a presidential pass for stonewalling Mueller, the Manhattan District Attorney is preparing state criminal charges.  Presidential pardons only apply to federal crimes.  A state grand jury has been reviewing evidence concerning two bank loans that were the subject of some of Manafort's federal crimes.

Turns out that Michael Cohen will be testifying in the House sooner rather than later.  After getting a two month reprieve for "health reasons" from the presiding judge in his case, the House Oversight Committee announced he will appear on February 27th.  He will eventually appear before three house committees.  Everyone wants a piece of him.

Chairman Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, contradicted his Senate counterpart Repugnant Richard Burr by saying “You can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence,” Schiff said, adding, “There is a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Yes, but that difference is mostly a matter of probative evidence.

 credit: M. Wuerker
BC Idonwanna sez: Qui, mon enfant terrible, Tu!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Vote Fraud Exists--in North Carolina

Update:  The North Carolina Board of Elections voted yesterday unanimously to conduct a special election in the Ninth Congressional District.  A key witness, Lisa Britt, testified she was paid to collect absentee ballots.  Some of the ballots were completed by her in favor of the Repugnant--an admission of vote tampering.  The Board chairman said the "corruption" and "absolute mess" surrounding the submission of absentee ballots tainted the entire election. Mark Harris (R) dropped out of the race today.

{22.02.2019} Repugnants spend a great deal of time accusing their opposition of vote fraud and to passing all kinds of restrictive voting laws in the name of preventing vote fraud, but actually intended to cut down the size of the vote turn out for the other side.   Mark Harris (R), an evangelical minister and candidate for the House, supposedly won the congressional election in North Carolina by just 905 votes according to unofficial returns, but the state Board of Elections refused to certify the election, and held its fourth day of hearings today in order to get to the bottom of what may be the largest actual cases of vote fraud in modern US history.

A GOP operative for the Harris campaign is alleged to have paid people to tamper with absentee ballots in at least two counties that comprise the 9th Congressional district in the southern part of the state  The campaign hired McCrea Dowless despite a history of vote tampering allegations stretching back years.  The candidate claimed he knew nothing of the operative's background. Yesterday, Harris' son contradicted that story testifying that he warned his father by phone and email that Dowless was "shady". Harris' son is now an assistant US Attorney in Raleigh.  He also in formed campaign chairman Andy Yates of his concerns. Yates' political consulting firm, "Red Dome Group" paid Dowless for his work on behalf of the campaign.  Yates described in testimonyan arrangement in which there was little oversight or accountability for Dowless’ activities. Dowless is accused of hiring a team of workers to illegally collect, sign, forge, and turn in ballots.  It is a felony in North Carolina to submit absentee ballots on behalf of a voter.

Adding to the suspicious evidence is a text message to a local judge in which Harris laments about not having the assistance of "the guy" who organized a absentee ballot "project" in Johnson County that proved instrumental in Harris' previous defeat for the 9th District seat.  The Board sternly chastised Harris for his belated release of this information after having represented that all relevant communications had been provided.  Members of the Board called the last minute disclosure, "a disgrace".  The election is the last undecided contest in the 2016 cycle.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Alive and Well on Fernandina

quite shy, but a survivor nonetheless; AFP
FLASH--An expedition to the Galapagos island of Fernandina has found a living adult female tortoise of a species, Chelonoidis phantastica, thought to be extinct for a century. The discovery was announced yesterday by the Ecuadorian minister for the environment, Marcelo Mata. An American environmental organization, Galapagos Conservancy, organized the expedition that found the tortoise; it is endemic only to the island of Fernandia. The isolated Galapagos archipelago is world famous for its unique flora and fauna, which inspired Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution by natural selection. Ten giant tortoise species inhabit the islands including those considered extinct.  Scientists think that an ancestor arrived 3 to 4 million years ago and was dispersed by marine currents to different islands where it adapted to unique habitats on each island, creating diverse species.  Galapagos tortoises owe their longevity to genetic capacity to permanently repair their DNA.  Tortoises as old as 150 years have successfully reproduced in captivity.

Senate Passes Significant Conservation Bill, S47

Some good news from a "locked down" Senate midst the constitutional crisis created by MacOrange.  It passed a significant conservation bill a week ago last Tuesday, and by a large, bipartisan majority (92-8) which indicates the depth of support in both camps for protecting wild lands.  The rare show of unanimity comes at a time when the Trumpilini regime is doing its best to dismantle protections for Nature. The measure designates more than a million acres of wilderness, and establishes permanent appropriation for the Land & Water Conservation Fund, freeing it from dependence on annual congressional  renewal. Congressional funding for the program has “fluctuated widely” since its inception in 1965, according to a 2018 Congressional Research Service report. Spending fund money is not mandatory, however. Senators and staff from western states that worked on the measure for two years expressed their pleasure at passage in the halls of Congress.

The bill creates 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, the most stringent federal protection that prohibits all human development in Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and California. Some of the Utah wilderness is withing the boundaries of two national monuments Hair Further threatened to shrink. A new monument was also created: the Mississippi home of civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers, reminding us that national monuments also protect our cultural heritage. Two hundred and eighty miles of river in Oregon and two hundred twenty five miles of river in Massachusetts and Connecticut are designated wild, scenic or recreational, including the once heavily polluted Nashua River that is now popular with boaters. The bill goes to the House for passage where it also enjoys bipartisan support.

credit: Washington Post

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

COTW: Trumped-Up Emergency

This chart give you the facts about the absurd 'crisis' created by the dysfunctional, destructive confidence man occupying the White House:

Sixteen states have come together to sue Trump.  The suit, led by California*, seeks a preliminary injunction against Individual I and alleges he does not have the constitutional power to divert funds so he can build pieces of his Wall of Shame to satisfy his white supremacist voting block.  He intends to divert $3.6 billion from military construction accounts and $2.5 billion from Defense Department efforts to fight illicit drugs. The states claim that diverting funds already appropriated for other purposes will harm their economies by costing millions of dollars.  The wall is being attacked by environmentalists too.  The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit over the weekend, also on constitutional grounds.  Environmentalists think the wall is an ecological barrier that harms endangered species by preventing their free range across the borderlands, some of which are designated critical habitat or protected reserves.

* Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.  All have Democratic governors except Maryland, which has a Democratic Attorney General.  Democrats in Congress are planning a vote on a joint resolution to repudiate this dangerous political stunt engineered by Hair Further. If a joint resolution is passed the wannabe dictator will veto it.  Obtaining a two-thirds majority to override a veto is politically unlikely.  Neither Pelosi nor Schumer, nor any other leading congressional Democrat, has suggested that Trump’s action is an impeachable offense,  Lawsuits lead ultimately to a decision by the US Supreme Court which has a five-member ultra-right majority, including two justices nominated by Trump himself.  An ineffectual, compromised opposition has allowed this nascent dictatorship to stack the political deck in Washington. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Saving Bats in the West

US Person has posted in the past about the deadly "white nose fungus" that is decimating bat colonies in the eastern US. {26.05.11}  Pseudogymnoascus destructans causes fuzzy white spots to appear on infected bats' muzzles and wings.  Biologists writing in a microbiology journal have called it "the most consequential wildlife diseases of modern times"  The disease has killed millions of bats and threatens a once abundant mammal with extinction. The loss of this little mammal could have consequences for man: bats play a critical ecological role as pollinators and insectivores.  However, some experts think attempts to immunize bats or isolate healthy colonies to prevent infections, "wrongheaded", or worse, a waste of money.  Disrupting bats during their hibernation period for treatment would add stress at a time when they are most vulnerable according to these laissez- faire experts.  So far an effective treatment for bats to resist the pathogen has eluded a host of agencies, non-profit organizations, and volunteers.  Exposing colonies to UV light is a possible solution.  UV kills the fungus in laboratory experiments, but deploying it effectively in the wild is another problem not yet solved.  The effect of such exposure on roosting bats is unknown.

The fungus, a probable Eurasian invasive species, was first discovered in a cave in Schoharie County, near Albany, New York in 2006. Since then it has spread to thirty six states and seven Canadian provinces wiping out entire colonies; an estimated six million bats have died.  Now the disease is infiltrating the West at the rate of one state per year.  It has already appeared on the eastern edge of the region, killing bats in Oklahoma, South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. Biologists are starting to enter caves and abandoned mines [photo, left] to locate affected colonies and study unaffected colonies to determine how they might resist the disease. Caves and mines peppering the Rocky Mountains are the redoubt of overwintering bats. The pathogen dehydrates them, causing them to wake from their torpor and deplete energy needed for their survival. Instead of waking once every three weeks or so to take care of business, such as mating, they wake every seven days to drink.  Bats use almost no energy while in torpor, but their too frequent arousal depletes their strict energy budget causing starvation.

Treating bats could produce unwanted results, such as killing beneficial microorganisms that could cause adverse chain reactions in their underground habitat.  Also, treated bats could become reinfected.  Biologists have considered putting food in their caves, applying chemical skin treatments, installing dehumidifiers and spraying with an organic anti-fungal agent made from wild pineapple stems.  Research goes on to find the best way to help our bats survive this deadly plague. [photos: credit New York Times]

Saturday, February 16, 2019

"Toontime: Reality Sucks for Manafort

credit: K. Siers
BC Idonwanna sez: Also, he no have to do it.
The latest in the Russian Connection investigation:  Robert Mueller revealed in court documents filed Friday, that the Special Counsel uncovered additional emails directly connecting Robert Stone to Russian intelligence operation Gucifer 2.0 and "Organization I", widely considered to be Wikileaks.  The emails were discovered in response to subpoenas issued by his office.  Stone previously claimed he never communicated directly with Wikileaks, but used a go-between, Randy Credico. Credico has repeatedly denied being Stone's source.  Emails show that Stone did communicate with Jerome Corsi to get in touch with Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder.

The Special Counsel recommended that Paul Manafort serve 19.5 years in prison, slightly less than the maximum under federal sentencing guidelines of 24.4 years.  Manafort is reportedly 69 years old, but prosecutors said his age should not be considered a factor in sentencing. Manafort has already served eight months in jail. Their recommendation reflects the seriousness of the financial crimes perpetrated by Manafort to "maintain his extravagant lifestyle, at the expense of various financial institutions." Manafort sent fake financial statements to secure mortgages when payments from his consulting clients dried up.

He spent lavishly on luxury goods, including landscaping services to maintain the flower bed shaped as the letter 'M' in front of his Hampton mansion. Court documents say he committed crimes, "for no other reason than greed, evidencing his belief that the law does not apply to him." Manafort was convicted by an Alexandria, VA jury in August on eight counts of financial fraud arising out of his representation of the former pro-Russian Ukrainian government. A month later he pleaded guilty in Washington DC to two felony conspiracy charges as part of a plea agreement that dropped other potential charges to which he confessed. He was found guilty last week of violating that agreement to cooperate. Sentencing in his DC case is set for March 13th.

Robert Gates, Manafort's deputy, was present at the August 2nd cigar room meeting in Manhattan with Russian operative Konstantin Kliminik. His sentencing has been put off several times with apparent good reason. He is cooperating with the Special Counsel, and his testimony is probably responsible in large part for Manafort's dire straits. But he faces another front: Southern District of New York prosecutors are investigating illegal inaugural committee contributions. That committee was chaired by Thomas J.Barrack Jr., a long time friend of Individual I. Robert Gates was also his deputy. Gates has already admitted personally misusing campaign funds. So far he has avoided the limelight, but that may change as the investigations continue into year two.

credit: T. Egan
Wackydoodle sez: I betch'ya!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Oregon Killing Old Growth Pine Trees

dead pines along Hwy 20, credit: R. Benneke
Route 20 is a highway that crosses the Cascades from the Willamette Valley to the high desert.  It is scenic in spots, primarily because of the stands of old growth ponderosa pine that line the highway.  However over 1400 of these magnificent specimens have died and more will die because the state's department of transportation uses a pesticide to spray the roadside, keeping it clear of unwanted growth (aka weeds).  State and federal investigators say that the chemical used, aminocyclopyrachlor, is also killing the pine trees.  The compound, once sold by DuPont under the brand name Imprelis, was taken off the market after 30,000 customers complained it was killing their trees.  The company estimated its liability in the hundreds of millions.  Shortly thereafter the EPA banned the herbicide.

dying evergreen in Ohio, credit: A. Spear
But clever capitalists take clever actions to manipulate consumers.  DuPont also marketed the product under a different name, Perspective, using different instructions on the label and marketing it to public users such as golf courses and departments of transportation.  The brand was later sold to Bayer and it stayed on the market, licensed by federal regulators.  Same substance, different label, sound familiar?  It is called in the capitalistic vernacular, "branding". After a decade of causing havoc with homeowners' evergreens in the Midwest, apologists said other factors such as road de-icer or drought could have caused the die off.   Ponderosa pines living along Hwy 20 still have toxic levels of the chemical in their systems six years after the last roadside spraying.  The dying pines caused public outrage among the many "tree huggers" resident in Oregon.  In September, state regulators placed a temporary ban on the substance.  The Oregon Department of Agriculture is slowly moving toward a partial ban on the herbicide, restricting its use to small areas and prohibiting its use on roadsides.  But the damage to centuries old pines is irreversible.

Its continued use has predictably divided interested parties.  Environmentalists want it banned completely, agriculturalists say it still has beneficial uses were there are few trees and invasive species, such as eastern Oregon.  State officials point their fingers at the EPA for failing to remove the product from the shelves when its tree killing affects were first discovered.  However, they defend its continued use in the state.  In 2013 the state legislature passed a law to prioritize non-chemical control of weeds, by establishing a "Pest Management Committee" but the legislation has apparently not produced results.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Race to Save the Planet

As some Democrats in the House of Representatives have come belatedly to realize, the planet is in danger of becoming uninhabitable for other creatures besides man, who has technology to delay his eventual biological demise.  His survival in his only planetary home depends on preserving the functioning of planetary cycles, this in turn like most things in Nature, depends on conserving remaining wild ecosystems.  Thirteen conservation organizations* have called on governments to accelerate the protection of 30% of Earth from human development and exploitation by 2030.  Nearly two-thirds of the Earth’s wetlands and half of all rainforests are already gone.  The current rate of extinction for species is 1,000 times higher than the natural one and is expected to accelerate at natural systems collapse.  The grim dystopias depicted in science fiction films such as Blade Runner, and THX 1138 is becoming a scientific reality.

The call for more protection is organized by the Wyss Campaign for Nature, a billion dollar foundation created by Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss native now living in Wyoming.  It comes as negotiators are meeting in Japan to develop a proposed global conservation plan for consideration at next year's meeting of the Convention for Biological Diversity in Beijing, China.  The conservation groups called the UN-wide plan the "last hope to ensure the long-term sustainability of Earth's ecosystems upon which human life depends."  The plan must contain four key elements say the groups:
  • extinction of species must be prevented;
  • recovering species should be allowed to achieve abundance;
  • the extent and quality of ecosystems should be stabilized using 2018 as a base year;
  • degraded ecosystems should be restored to maintain their functions and environmental services
Wyss said of the initiative, “From the forests that supply our drinking water to the rugged back country that inspires the imagination of our children, everyone on Earth has a stake in conserving our planet’s wild places before they are gone.” 

*these are: 
BirdLife International
Conservation International
Fauna & Flora International
Global Wildlife Conservation
Nature Conservancy
Natural Resources Defense Council
National Geographic
United Nations Foundation
Wildlife Conservation Society
Wyss Campaign for Nature
Zoological Society of London

Bombshell: Manafort Lied

A federal district court judge ruled Wednesday that Paul Manafort, the former head of Individual I's campaign for president, intentionally lied to the Special Counsel, FBI and the grand jury investigating the Russian Connection and therefore voided his plea agreement.  Absent a presidential pardon, Manafort, age 70, can look forward to the remainder of his life confined in prison. As part of his agreement to cooperate, federal prosecutors agreed not to charge him with additional crimes. His sentencing is scheduled for March 13th before Judge Amy Jackson.  She decided after a series of confidential hearings that Manafort lied in three of five areas alleged by federal prosecutors.  The core of the lies concern Manafort's meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik, a known Russian intelligence operative, whom he met before and after the campaign.  He also lied about a payment routed through a pro-Trump political action committee (PAC) to cover the King of Debt's legal bills.  The only open question is: was Manafort operating as a free agent or, on behalf of his boss--in short, a conspiracy?  Senator Howard Baker asked a similar question during the Watergate Affair, "what did he know and when did he know it"?  We all know now that Tricky Dick was behind the burglary and the subsequent White House cover up of the crime.  US Person expects a similar result this time around.  The big difference is that Nixon's collusion did not implicate national security, or foreign policy toward an adversarial foreign power.

A secret meeting took place on August 2nd between Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates and Kilimnik where the situation in the Ukraine was discussed, a subject of intense interest to the Kremlin.  Allegedly a proposed resolution of the Ukraine conflict was put forward by Kilimnik, and campaign polling data apparently handed over to Kilimnik.  During this time, the candidate stepped up his friendly rhetoric towards Russia. If the meeting and its content is corroborated, it is a direct link between the campaign and Russian intelligence attempting to influence the 2016 campaign--the so-called "quid pro quo".  An expert on the use of polling data says it is a mistake to treat modern polling data as mere briefing material.  As Cambridge Analytics showed us, polling data can be used to target in great specificity persons--voters--likely to be persuaded or influenced by the messenger.  Manafort's lack of candor after agreeing to cooperate with federal authorities, puts him in a tremendous bind.  If he reveals to investigators what he is hiding, he may destroy any chance he has at a presidential pardon since the secret may be so dark that it will unseat the current occupant of the White House.  Avoiding this risk may cost him what remains of his freedom for the rest of his life.  US Person's head is already spinning.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Trump's Illegal Wall

As the second government shut down in as many months looms ever closer, (Friday is the deadline) Individual I comes closer to doing something entirely illegal: ordering the military to build his stupid wall under a declaration of national emergency. Besides poorly imitating the career paths of past fascist dictators, there is one major problem for him: ordering the military to enforce domestic law is illegal.  Congress has to expressly authorize use of the military to accomplish domestic policy.  The prohibition makes it a federal crime for anyone using the Army or Air Force (and presumably the Navy too) to execute domestic law.  The 1956 statute is rooted in a Reconstruction era provision made law in 1878.  Another statute from 1981 going back to 1807 prohibits any military member from search, seizure, arrest or similar activity without express Congressional authorization.  Congress passed a repeal of a sweeping exception allowing the use of the military in natural disasters where a national emergency was declared in 2008.  Small exceptions to the general rule do exist: the Coast Guard can legally exercise police powers in the territorial waters of the United States, but not along the Mexican boarder.  Any claim by Hair Further that terrorists are crossing the southern border to make use of a terrorist exception is simply a denial of his own data. Two terrorists did not die in immigration custody recently, but two children escaping the violence in Central America with their families.

The problem is that the Individual I is living in a dream world of Hollywood mob movies and westerns.  The United States military raided into Mexico in pursuit of banditti and Indians with alarming impunity during the 19th and early 20th century.  But this is the 21st century and such behavior is beyond outré, it would be an international incident. His cynical claim that Mexico would pay for his Wall of Shame was deceitful as well as insulting. In fact, because of the historical abuse of "emergency powers" that culminated in the Watergate Affair, Congress passed the National Emergencies Act of 1976, in which the first section terminated all previous grants of emergency authority (470) to the Executive.  If Individual I attempted to declare an emergency to build his Wall of Shame, Section Five of the Act allows Congress to pass a joint resolution to repudiate the declaration (the previous legislative veto provision was declared unconstitutional).  Is there any doubt that Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority would repudiate the non-crisis emergency?  The Repugnants in the Senate may be willing to protect Hair Further from impeachment, but not risk their political futures over a non-nonsensical monument to nativist excess.

Apparently, Individual I wants to hang his hat on an obscure section of the Federal Code, 10 USC 2808, which allows emergency military construction.  One major problem with that twisted statutory interpretation:  the Wall is expressly and admittedly not for the use of the military, but to be used as an instrument of immigration policy.  This statue expressly says that construction may be undertaken during a national emergency requiring the use of the military by the military secretaries, if the projects "are necessary to support such use of the armed forces."  Simply unilaterally declaring an emergency to get his way is not enough.  No national politician in their right mind thinks the border situation requires use of the military.  Apprehensions for illegal crossings are at a sixteen year low despite increased border security.  The guy is getting very bad legal advice, if he even considers it in his confused deliberations*

If statues are not enough to convince the extremists in the White House that Donito Trumpilini is out of line, the Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue too. President Truman attempted to nationalize the nation's steel mills in 1952 to stop a debilitating strike during a real national emergency known as the Korean War.  The Supreme Court said the President could not use emergency powers to dictate national policy in Youngstown v. Sawyer.  So, suppose the legal-challenged Individual I decided to go ahead, anyway.  US Person thinks the nation could be faced with the spectacle of conscientious soldiers refusing to obey illegal orders.  Most certainly, another serious specification would be added to the mounting Bill of Particulars against the reality-TV dictator.

*An intensely angry Trump is in El Paso,TX, not Washington DC where he should be seeking a compromise to avoid another disruptive and costly shutdown, stumping for popular support of his delusional construction project.  Only one problem: the facts on the ground do not bear out his arguments for building his Wall of Shame.  Crime in the border town had been declining for sixteen years, well before the border barrier was constructed in 2008-09.  Lastly, only one third of the proposed construction could take place on federal property.  Trump explains he would obtain land for two thirds of the wall by using a "militarized version" of eminent domain.  Assuming such authority exists somewhere in the voluminous federal code--a big assumption--private and tribal land seizures would be the straw that ends Trump's unstable political career.  Land seizures would be tantamount to creating a military zone over which the military, not the elected civilian government, would have total control, akin to the militarized border that now separates North and South Korea. The bipartisan committee seeking to avoid a shutdown have agreed on $1.4 billion for more border fencing.  If Hair Further vetoes this compromise,  chances are he will be overridden by a two-thirds majority in Congress to keep the government running until September.

Monday, February 11, 2019

COTW: Crunching the Numbers on Single Payer

Hysterics on the right are already assailing Bernie Sander's Medicare for All proposal.  They see opposition to that proposal as a last-ditch effort to stave off pagan socialism in the good 'ole boy USofA, and will fight it tooth and nail.  Interestingly, a  think tank at George Mason University, VA   supported by the arch-conservative Koch Brothers found that Medicare for All would cost $32 trillion over 10 years, but would actually end up saving $2 trillion after 10 years over the current, broken for-profit system.  A twenty percent cut in the defense budget would save $140 billion a year at current levels of funding.

Putting hypotheticals aside, we look at an actual legislative plan put forward in the State of New York for universal health coverage in therer.  RAND corporation, which does a lot of numbers crunching for the Pentagon, performed an analysis of the state plan that would cover all New York residents, without co-pays.  The study concludes, similarly to the George Mason study at the federal level, that the state would initially pay more for health care to insure broader, and universal coverage, but in the long run would actually save 2% over the ridiculous kluge that passes for a healthcare system in the US.  Here are the charts, courtesy

The chart shows more spending on actual care services, as opposed to administration under the universal system. RAND found New York would be spending $23 billion less on overhead by 2031 while providing more people more coverage.  That's a good thing.  This chart amplifies the difference:

By 2031, a New Yorker would be paying half as much out of pocket for doctor visits and prescriptions, but with almost the same revenue impact as the current, broken system: new taxes of $210 billion versus $195 billion in premiums.  RAND makes a simple statement about the new taxes supporting the program: “We find that payments for health care would be more progressive under the NYHA [New York Health Act] than under the status quo.”  Another good thing. The last chart shows the wealthy, who can afford it, will pay more under New York's universal care program:

The bottom line is that both studies, at the state and federal levels support what US Person and others have been saying for a long, long time: single payer, universal care supported by new progressive taxes will save large amounts of overhead costs--due primarily to multi-payer, profit-driven health insurance industry--while delivering more care to more people at lower overall cost.  Even the Koch Brothers think so, apparently.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

'Toontime: SOTU, Shmotoo

credit: Will Durst
Wackydoodle sez: Fantastic, amazing--just like the Wall. Never been better in the history of ever!
 And everybody knows it!
US Person wishes to apologize to his readers: The text that appeared with this cartoon (and another) has been deleted by persons unknown.  If the original text can be recovered, he will re-post it.  Is that hot enough?

Replacement Post:  This week in the Russian Connection investigation, Chairman Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee told media that his initial move will be to share previous sworn Congressional testimony with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  The release of Robert Stone's testimony after months of wrangling with the Repugnant majority led to his recent indictment for lying to Congress.  Schiff told reporters he has concerns about the testimony of other witnesses before the committee, since some witnesses may have believed they had "some sort of immunity" when the committee was controlled by the other party.  Schiff went on to say, "There’s no reason to protect these witnesses; there’s every reason to validate Congress’ interest in not having people come before it and lie."

Individual I's TV lawyer, Rudy Gulliani, has been reduced from repeating the mantra, "No collusion." to: 'the President did not collude, but maybe some of his staff did'.  He told a reporter on Wednesday night, “I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign,” during an interview with a CNN anchor.

The swirl of investigations have got even establishment Democrats wondering why the self-proclaimed "King of Debt" is so chummy with Boss Vlad .   The Minority Whip, Dick Durbin wondered aloud on ABC, “Why is he so chummy with Vladimir Putin? This man, who is a former KGB agent, never been a friend of the United States, invaded our allies, threatens us around the world and tries his damnedest to undermine our elections.”  Don't ignore Captain Obvious, Mr. Durbin.  Rep. Mike Quiqley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the investigations, which Americans favor by a substantial majority, the "most important investigations of our lifetime--and I lived through Watergate." 

credit: Nick Beeler, Columbus Dispatch

Friday, February 08, 2019

Marine Mammal Occupiers

Drake's Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore was a favorite spot for US Person years ago, and still is with nature lovers. Only one thing has changed: elephant seals have taken over the beach to give birth to their young, and won't give it back to humans. The invasion, if you can call it that, took place when visitors were barred during the government shutdown. Now that rangers are back on the job, they have decided not to disturb the roughly ninety individuals enjoying the surf and sand. Especially since some of them weigh as much as a small car. A colony of 1500 inhabit nearby Colony Beach, which is protected from tourists by 100 foot cliffs, but Drake's is flat, accessible, and comes with a beautiful view of the Pacific so not only humans like to linger there.

The preferred method used by rangers to discourage occupiers of the marine kind was to wave blue tarps at them. But tarp wavers are apparently not essential employees, so no one was there to shoo the beasts away during the 35 day hiatus.  The seals took advantage to expand their calving grounds, encouraged by high tides and storms inundating their usual beach.  Park officials had told the public that popular Drake's would reopen four days after the shutdown ended, but then had to post another announcement closing public access until the seals have finished their business.  A few males, which can weight up to 4500 lbs, have adventured beyond the beach into the parking lot and picnic area.  So far, tourist seem interested in visiting the marine mammals as they enjoy what used to be human territory; the park is considering offering visitors a guided tour of the seal colony.  A good idea since public education is one mission of your National Park Service.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

House Intelligence Committee Resumes Investigation of Trump

Now that the House is under Democratic Party control, Individual I faces the prospect of an intensified and broadened, investigation of his family, his campaign, and financial dealings. Chairman Schiff released a statement today that must have sent chills down the spine of Hair Further. Schiff stated, "It is now known that, from late 2015 through early 2017, individuals close to Donald Trump engaged in a significant number of contacts with an array of individuals connected to, or working on behalf of, the Russian government, and that several of these contacts involved efforts to acquire and disseminate damaging information about Hillary Clinton and her campaign, or related to Russia’s desired relief from U.S. sanctions." The Chairman acknowledged the efforts of the Special Counsel to uncover the facts behind the accusations of "collusion" with foreign government agents to influence the 2016 campaign, but reminded us that the House of Representatives has an oversight role it must fulfill as well as a role in protecting US from "malign influence" operations conducted by foreign governments. He outlined five areas in which his committee will focus their efforts:
  1. The scope and scale of the Russian government’s operations to influence the U.S. political process, and the U.S. government’s response, during and since the 2016 election; 
  2. The extent of any links and/or coordination between the Russian government, or related foreign actors, and individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign, transition, administration, or business interests, in furtherance of the Russian government’s interests; 
  3. Whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates;
  4. Whether President Trump, his family, or his associates are or were at any time at heightened risk of, or vulnerable to, foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion, or have sought to influence U.S. government policy in service of foreign interests; and
  5. Whether any actors – foreign or domestic – sought or are seeking to impede, obstruct, and/or mislead authorized investigations into these matters, including those in the Congress.
Trump called Chairman Schiff a "political hack", that he had "never heard of". That kind of arrogance is guaranteed to win him friends and influence people on the Hill. Schiff said he understands why meaningful oversight terrifies the President since several of his associates have already gone to jail. The Committee voted to turn over transcripts of previous Congressional sworn testimony to the Special Counsel. Speaker Pelosi publicly promised that investigations of Trump and his business dealings will go forward, but has cautioned that the investigations should be deliberate to avoid the public perceptions of political revenge against Individual I. Repugnants are already making this accusation. If Democrats play their cards correctly, the Russian Connection investigations could extend well into the next presidential campaign.

The House Ways and Means Committee will begin its efforts to obtain Individual I's tax returns under a mandatory provision of the US tax code Sec. 6103 passed in the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal during the Hoover administration.  The Committee could use his tax return information to finally determine if any of the financial dealings of the "King of Debt" might have resulted in foreign agents exerting undue influence over a bankrupt businessman strapped for cash*. Allegations of money laundering by Trump businesses have circulated for years.  The way his business was conducted-- through multiple shell companies, contracts with pseudonyms, and attorney cut-outs like Michael Cohen to make deals--has raised a firestorm of suspicion. 

*Contrary to recent precedent of presidential candidates Trump refused to release his tax returns.  In one of only two pieces of tax information to be publicly released, Trump claimed a huge loss of $916 million in 1995, a loss so big it could have legally released him, through loss carry forward provisions of the tax code, from paying federal taxes for eighteen years.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Creature Feature: Voice of Nature

Dutch artist Thijs Biersteker want to visualize the growth response of a living tree, so viewers could appreciate its life force in real time. Trees log their growth activity in their trunks in the form of annual growth rings, but a comprehensible record of a tree's responses to its environment take time. In the case of trees reacting to global climate change, humans do not have that luxury. So, the artist hooked up a Japanese cinnamon tree growing in Chengdu, China to 1600 sensors that monitor environmental condition such as moisture, temperature, CO2 level and air quality. His installation is part of a month long art festival entitled "Light Up Bashu". The sensor data is processed by an algorithm that projects "instant" growth rings--one every second--on a circular screen behind the tree, giving viewers a artistic comprehension of the living organism's response to its environment. Slow growth produces tightly spaced rings, while rapid growth produces pulses of evenly spaced concentric curves. Disturbances in conditions, such as smog, produces textured, complex designs. Viewers can be seen touching the tree to see if their connection produces an image on the screen. Enjoy Biersteker's "Voice of Nature"

Saturday, February 02, 2019

COTW: Making the Rich Richer

This chart shows who benefited the most from the Trump tax cuts:

Oh really?  Repugnants in Congress sold the tax cuts for the rich by claiming they would pay for themselves through increased revenue from more economic growth. NOT. Total revenues for 2018 dropped, adjusted for inflation, by $83 billion despite a modest 3% growth in the economy.  In reality, that is what counts not snake oil, the tax cuts for the rich are contributing to a widening federal budget deficit on track to top 1 trillion says New York Times economic analyst Jim Tankersley.

So, as progressive Democrats ponder the disaster that is Donald Trump they should keep this fact central in their thoughts: in the three decades the top 1% have double their share of the nation's wealth because of neoliberal trickle down policies.  What we need now, is income redistributionUS Person suggests is
a wealth tax levied on the richest 1% of Americans to claw back some of the extreme wealth accumulation that has occurred at the expense of the middle and poor classes since the Regan administration.  An excise tax on financial speculation transactions by which the wealthy derive the majority of their capital.  Financial speculation in esoteric derivatives was largely responsible for the Great Recession of 2008, and it can happen again in the absence of any legislation to restrain irresponsible speculation. End corporate tax welfare embodied in preferential rates for capital gains and accelerated depreciation schemes.  Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hr.  Putting more spending power in the hands of the greatest number of people will assure economic growth since the economy is largely driven by consumer spending (~70%).  There is more that can be done, but US Person is not running for office, and perhaps dear reader you would rather not be disturbed on the day of the BIG GAME.
Sounds radical? The history of America demonstrates that at certain junctures, even before the nation's founding, radical action* is needed to advance the general welfare.  You may recall the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766*.  The cruel plutocrat Trump was brought about such an appropriate time.

*After publication of Patrick Henry's fiery extemporaneous speech in Virginia's House of Burgesses against the imposition of taxes without consent of American colonists, known as the "Virginia Resolves", riots occurred in every major city of the English colonies to protest Parliament's taxation without representation.  The Act passed in 1765 in part to defray the empire's expense of the Seven Years War (French & Indian War). The first city to erupt in violence was Boston, which had two organized, proletarian mobs accustomed to street brawling on Guy Fawkes Day (known as "Pope Day" in Boston). This time, the mob turned their attention to the city's customs officials, stamp distributor, and Lt. governor, sacking their homes.  The mob forced the distributor to resign his office before he issued a single stamp.  After the riots no provincial governor would enforce the legislation.  So the Act was effectively nullified by the "Sons of Liberty's" direct action, forcing Parliament to repeal the Act the following year on economic grounds.  Recitation of this historical event does not mean US Person endorses violence as a means to achieve political and social reform., but it has played a definite and sometimes effective role in this nation's and other democracy's politics (France's Gilete Jaune Movement is good recent example).

Friday, February 01, 2019

'Toontime: Penn Avenue Freeze-Out

As Individual I prepares "in his mind" to illegally build his folly using emergency funds already under Executive Branch control after the federal government is shutdown for a second time and the world pushed closer to nuclear conflagration, PNG looks at the latest developments in the Russian Connection investigation. US Person asks: is Robert Mueller's probe the last, best way to remove a loose cannon from office? Or must the nation endure two more years of reality-TV class government brought to you by Hair Further?

Roger Stone has told reporters he will tell investigators about his conversations with Individual I. Stone told a press interviewer the phone conversations were "benign" and certainly did not constitute conspiracy with Russia to influence the campaign. No surprise here. Prosecutors have complied voluminous files from Stone's digital devices. They are required under federal criminal law to share the material with Stone's defense team, but the have asked the court to impose a protective order to preserve the material's confidentiality. Stone is scheduled to appear in DC federal district court Friday
credit: RJ Matson
BC Idonwanna sez: You need tattoo removal!
Another arm of the expanding investigation involves the NRA and a Russian woman, Maria Butina. Butina plead guilty last year for acting as a unregistered Russian agent and participating in a conspiracy against the Untied States.  She helped set up a 2015 Moscow meeting between NRA officials and senior Russian officials. The gun-rights group has tried to distance itself from the meeting, but a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the connection says that effort is not credible. Butina wrote to NRA delegation members that she would meet them at the Moscow airport with a "big red sign saying welcome NRA" Congressional investigators are focusing on David Keene, a former NRA president, who was the primary organizer of the event for the group. The meeting has drawn interest because it is seen as a key development in the effort of Butina and her Russian government handler, Alexander Torshin, to cultivate influence with American conservatives. Torshin has long standing ties to the organization including attending six annual conventions since 2011. He was treated as a VIP at elite NRA fund raising events. Torshin was one of the Russian nationals sanctioned by the Treasury Department last April. The NRA says that no Russian money went into its $30 million effort to elect Individual I to the presidency.

 credit: Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer