Friday, May 31, 2019

Bus Wars

China has 421,000 electric buses; the United States has 300.  Thanks to the government's massive support of electrically powered buses, they now make up more than 50% of the world's new bus sales [photo].  China has won the war against fossil fueled powered buses that are dirty, noisy and expensive to maintain.  Just ask anyone who has driven behind a diesel powered bus in town.  Cities have tried alternatives, but nothing beats an electric bus for efficiency, reliability and lower operating costs--running at just one-fourth the cost of traditional fuel powered buses.  In the typical ten to twelve year life span for an urban bus, electric ones can save $400,000 in total operating costs compared to diesel.  A major hurdle to using electric transport is building infrastructure to support it.  China has a serious air pollution problem, so the government is willing to invest in building the needed charging stations. Geography also plays a role.  In hilly cities, like Hong Kong, electric buses cannot make the grade. Electric buses cost more, but the cost differential is dropping due to lower battery costs.  The difference between a diesel and electric bus is now $200,000

Shenzen was the first Chinese megalopolis to convert to electric urban transport; the city aided by a $150,000 grant per bus offered by the national government. [photo credit, Getty Images]  The conversion was completed in 2017; Shenzen now has 16,000 electric buses serving 13 million residents.  The former fishing village of 30,000 says that it will achieve a 48% reduction in carbon emissions.  The new transports are so quiet that the city has received requests to equip them with artificial noise to give warning of their proximity.  Given the success of Shenzen's switch to clean transport, Beijing now requires all cities set a deadline for converting.  Thirty Chinese cities have made plans to use 100% electric by 2020, says the UK Guardian. In contrast, New York city does not plan to electrify its fleet until 2040. In US municipalities strapped for cash purchasing decisions are driven by upfront costs. So with the absence of government incentives and commitment to building a fossil fuel-free future, the US has lagged in electric bus sales.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

COTW: The Language of Fascisim

This chart prepared by a Yale philologist compares Don Veto's use of extremist language compared to previous occupants of the Office Without Corners.  As you can see he is almost off the chart in his use of polarizing language, a hallmark technique of authoritarian leaders:

Impeachment Article II

The United States House of Representatives, pursuant to the exclusive authority granted to it in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States hereby specifies the following Articles of Impeachment of the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump,


Article II:  The President of the United States abused the authority of his office, in violation of his oath to faithfully execute the duties of President, by directing senior officials of the Executive Branch to refuse a duly authorized demand by the United States House Ways & Means Committee of the Internal Revenue Service to produce tax returns of the President that are required pursuant to a valid provision of the United States Code.


*Robert Mueller's public statement yesterday is an unmistakable indication that the Special Counsel intended his 420+ page investigative report to be an impeachment referral.  He told the public that his office did not think it had the constitutional authority to bring charges against the President of the United States, that authority belonging exclusively to the House of Representatives under Article I, Section 2.  Will Congress fulfill its fundamental obligation in the face of open defiance by a co-equal branch of government ?  Or is it that our government is so corrupted that it can no longer according to constitutional norms?  Only House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains to be convinced that an impeachment inquiry must begin.  Investigation under another name detracts from  congressional legitimacy, legally and morally. Mueller owes it to the country to be the first witness, subpoenaed or not. Mueller himself said Wednesday, " The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing,” Amen; impeachment now!.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Malaysia's Last Male Rhino Dies

Tam enjoys a mud wallow in 2014
The last male Sumatran rhinoceros, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, alive in Malaysia died Monday further reducing the chances the species will avoid extinction in the wild.  The male named Tam died in the the care of his veterinarians at BORA, the Borneo Rhino Alliance, in Sabah, Malaysia.  His health had been deteriorating for some time.  At one time Tam represented the hope of conservationists to establish a viable captive breeding program in Malaysia.  D. sumatrensis is a decedent of the woolly rhino that lived during the Ice Age; only about 80 Sumatran rhinos are estimated to exist at present.  Tam was rescued from a palm oil plantation in 2008; he was thought to be 35 years old.

The breeding program was foiled by rhino biology, lack of funding, and politics.  Tam had poor quality sperm, and both the females he was to be bred with had uterine tumors. {08.06.17}  Attempts to exchange rhino gametes with Indonesia were not successful.  Little is known of Sumatran rhino reproductive physiology and converting ordinary cells in the laboratory into viable embryos is complex, so in vitro insemination was a long shot at best.  More than 70% of the Sabah rhino population on the island of Borneo has been lost to deforestation and the Asian horn trade.  Indonesia now holds the only remaining Sumatran rhinos on Earth, scattered among three national parks.  Seven of these are held in semi-natural conditions as part of a breeding program.  Two calves were born in that program in 2012 and 2016.

Creature Feature: Chimpanzees Dine on Tortoise

Chimpanzees eat a wide range of meat as well as the usual mixed salads, from termites and ants up to small forest deer and monkeys.  Heretofore they have not been seen eating reptiles. Chimpanzees in Gabon have been observed dinning on tortoises by smashing open the hard shells.  Gabon chimpanzees have grown accustomed to seeing humans, who now have the opportunity to observe their wild cousins more closely. Use of percussion tools has been observed in other western chimpanzee communities to crack open nuts, but never before seen to obtain meat. Hunters collect the tortoises from the ground and share the meat with their family members.; The intelligent creatures crack open the tortoise shells on an available hard surface like a tree branch to reach what must be a delectable tidbit inside.

One Loango male chimp was seen storing his tortoise snack in a tree fork to which he later returned to consume it. Such "future oriented cognition" had been considered a uniquely human type of intelligence. Now, scientists consider some birds as well as apes have the capability to plan ahead--"I am not hungry now, but may be later". We also know that human intrusion into wild habitat destroys lives, but also leads to a decline in behavioral diversity.  If man looses the last great apes, a window into his own behavioral past will close forever.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Impeachment Article VI

The United States House of Representatives, pursuant to the exclusive authority granted to it in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States hereby specifies the following Articles of Impeachment of the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump,


Article VI: The President of the United States obstructed justice by requesting  officials within the Executive Branch remove the Special Counsel and requesting former Attorney General Jeff Sessions reverse his recusal from the investigation of espionage by a foreign power intended to illegally influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.


*Witnesses at the Judiciary Committee's hearings, which featured Mr. John Dean former White House cousel who last testified before the Committee in 1974 and is an expert on Nixon's obstruction, testified that both of the cited instances constitute obstruction of justice that could be successfully prosecuted in a court of law, which has a much higher standard of evidence than an impeachment inquiry. Repugnant committee members reacted to Dean's testimony concerning the obvious similarities between Trump's obstruction and Nixon's by disparaging his veracity and reminding him he pleaded guilty to the crime of obstruction himself over forty years ago. One thousand US prosecutors have signed a letter saying that the actions of Donald Trump would be prosecuted if he were an ordinary citizen. Fortunately the founders provided a special court to determine the guilt or innocence of the occupant of the nation's highest public office: the Senate of the United States because no one is above the law.

Friday, May 24, 2019

COTW: The Biggest Picture

credit: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News

More than Nancy's prayers are needed to right the badly listing ship that is the US government. Only impeachment, the process the founders had the foresight to create in the Constitution as a means of removing a corrupt president, can save the ship from breaking up on the rocks of fascism or financial collapse.  Democrats who say that impeachment is futile, are ignoring the other serious crimes lurking in the uncovered evidence, and avoiding their absolute constitutional duty for the sake of political expediency to reveal them and bring the perpetrator to trial.  If the Senate nullifies impeachment merely because of extreme partisanship, the people will take care to remove Individual I, unless of course they choose to live in a dictatorship.

The first subpoenaed witness in an impeachment inquiry should be none other than Robert Mueller, who has provided a legitimate, documented basis on which to proceed, but is apparently reluctant to testify voluntarily. He is after all, a partisan; his investigation was narrow in scope and does not consider subjects such as fraudulent finances, foreign emoluments, and illegal campaign contributions. Negotiations for Mueller's appearance since the release of his investigative report have been unsuccessful. Only a deranged narcissist who believes himself above the law would call Mueller's investigation an "attempted coup".  How can the country be any more divided than it is right now?

One of the best indicators of actual leadership (not a person's bank account) is the ability to recognize an inflection point in history.  The country was at that point in 1940 when half of Europe was under Nazi tyranny, but almost half of the population did not want to become involved in another catastrophic European conflict. Fortunately FDR and others realized the extent of the fascist menace facing the country.  'Merica is at another inflection point.  As one North Carolina congressman stated succinctly, “If this cover up continues, President Trump may leave us no choice." This belligerent man-child occupying the Very White House is asking for it, portraying himself as the victim of irrational political hostility.  With a little help from our representatives he will get more than he wants.
 credit: John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune
Wackydoodle sez: I hear he shot a 68 on his sccorecard!

New Gecko Species in Sri Lanka

A new species of gecko inhabiting the shrinking forests of Sri Lanka has been described in a paper published in Zootaxa.  Sri Lanka is home to 24 known species in the genus Cnemaspis, all of which are endemic to the island.  Sri Lanka is rich in biodiversity, but it's unique forest habitats are rapidly shrinking.  The island has a wide array micro-habitats due to geological complexity, climatic variation, and altitude.

credit: M. Botejue
The Nilgala day gecko (Cnemaspis nilgala) is named after the forest in which it is found amid rock outcrops and granite caves.  Scientists determined the gecko is genetically distinct from Alwis’s day gecko (C. alwisi), for which it was confused.  The small, spotted lizard is slender with prominent forward facing eyes.  Sri Lanka's geckos are active in the day time, unlike geckos elsewhere.  Nigala forest is dry savanna type spanning just over 30,000 acres.  The gecko was found in caves used by prehistoric humans and rocky outcrops, but is thought to range throughout the forest.  These small habitats have been heavily impacted by mans's slash and burn agricultural and granite quarrying.  About seventy reptile species have been located in this particular forest, home to 17 species of geckos alone, one critically endangered and three endangered.  Scientists say the region in Uva province deserves conservation as a biological diversity hot spot.  Although the genus Cnemaspis has recently received attention from biologists, the location of Nilgala day gecko as a separate species indicates the need for more field survey and ecological research to understand conservation needs.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


More: The bombshells keep landing on Don Veto and his outfit! Today the Justice Department released an indictment charging banker Stephen Calk with  bribery of Paul Manafort to obtain a senior cabinet position within the regime. His bank, the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, made $16 millions in high-risk loans to the former campaign chairman, and according to the indictment sought to leverage his control of those loans to obtain an appointment as Treasury Secretary, Defense Secretary or Secretary of the Army. His wish list also included a number of ambassadorships in western nations. Calk directed his bank to make loans in excess of the bank's limits to Manafort. Shortly after directing a $9.5 million loan to Manafort, he made his ask for a cabinet job. When the Office of the Comptroller asked him about the loans he lied about his job request. Manafort was not able to land a job for his creditor, but Calk was interviewed for the Army Secretary position. He was put on the campaign's economic advisory committee. Manafort also sent Jared Kushner, son-in-law and head of the transition team, an email recommending that Calk join the regime. Calk faces a maximum of thirty years in prison for "financial institution bribery".

Update: A federal judge ruled that he would not enjoin Deutsche Bank from turning over financial records of its business with Individual I to comply with House subpoenas.  Since 1998, the bank has lent Don Veto a total of more than $2 billion, at a time when no other major bank would make him loans. Judge Ramos found it unlikely that the regime's arguments against release would win at trial.  The ruling came on the same day that the New York state legislature passed a bill allowing Congress to obtain Trump's state tax returns. Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the bill.  Don Veto will no doubt appeal the ruling, the second one to pierce his wall of silence. A man without compunction, he is now striking back against Democrats by refusing to negotiate with the opposition over pressing national legislation such as repairing infrastructure, disaster relief, and immigration reform--another clear abuse of presidential power. He "doesn't do coverups"? Just ask Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal.
It is over time for real reality, not fake TV reality, to catch up with the narcissistic, looser plutocrat sometimes known as Donald 'the Genius' Trump. Impeachment now, for the good of the country!

{21.05.19} How long will Nancy Pelosi hold back her Democratic colleagues who are being stonewalled into submission by the arrogant King of Debt who occupies the Very White House?  That is the question of the moment.  More investigation will get not get very far if the House is forced to litigate every step of the way.  This is the scorched earth strategy of the gang of Trump, who is himself a master of legal confrontation.  More investigation ignores the probable cause for impeachment proceedings already laid out in the redacted Mueller report.  His gang has repeatedly defied congressional subpoenas, which is yet another legitimate basis for impeachment.  Impeachment hearings would serve another laudable purpose: focus a distracted and deluded ring-wing voting base on the venality of their leader.

Former White House counsel Don McGahn announced he would defy another subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee today, at the order of the clown dictator, Don Veto Trumpilini.  Some Democrats are beginning to express impatience with Pelosi's overly cautious aversion to defending the Constitution in the face of an unstable president who considers himself above the law.  Some lawmakers are saying impeachment is "inevitable". US Person agrees it must be, if the Constitution is to survive as a viable foundation of representative government.  There has been no crisis like this since Richard Nixon, who infamously declared he was not a crook, but even he disclosed his tax returns.  If Speaker Pelosi is looking for a 'smoking gun' to indict Don Veto, the only way it will be found is if the House unleashes its full investigatory powers in the process of drafting Articles of Impeachment by the Judiciary Committee for which there is probable cause already in the public record.  Let the Repugnants charge the federal guns at their own peril.  Praise God, save the Republic, and pass the ammunition!

Attorney McGahn is no longer working for the White House.  He is a private citizen under legal compulsion to testify, unless of course he decides his testimony would be self-incriminating.  McGahn has already testified to the Special Counsel about his boss' obstruction with the consent of Don Veto, his client; executive privilege has therefore been waived.  McGahn is cited 157 times as a witness in Mueller's report. Chairman Nadler is correct to characterize Don Veto "omerta" order as witness intimidation, another federal crime, absurd claims of blanket executive immunity from legal process aside*. How many crimes does the hot-headed "kook" have to commit before he is stopped?  (hipsters call it an 'intervention') The imitation gangster has already shot the innocent bystander--the Constitution --on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight. Now, he is making the anonymous phone call to the cops to brag that he will kill again.

*The Justice Department  wrote a memo after the Don ordered "omerta",  addressed to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, arguing that Congress inherently does not have the power to make the former White House Counsel talk to them about his work for the boss. The memo also said the president had the power to order McGahn not to testify and that Congress did not have the power to punish him––criminally or civilly––for following such an order: “The immunity of the President’s immediate advisers from compelled congressional testimony on matters related to their official responsibilities has long been recognized and arises from the fundamental workings of the separation of powers,” reads the memo, signed by Office of Legal Counsel chief Steven Engel, a Trump appointee.  Engle obviously lives in Trumpland where history is not real.  Thank you, President Buchanan.
McGahn refusal to appear is not all out of loyalty to Don Veto, apparently.  His law firm, Jones Day, is entwined with the Repugnant Party, so he could loose a lot of business if he crossed the loyalty line.  How much business?  One commentator notes the firm did $2million worth of business with the Republican National Committee. 

COTW: Product Liability?

Exxon knew that combustion of its product would contribute to the increase in global temperatures due to carbon dioxide emission in 1982. Whaa? Here is the smoking gun:
This above chart is from a 1982 engineering study, "21st Century High Growth" scenario conducted by the oil giant. It shows the company expected an average atmospheric CO₂ level to be between 415-420ppm by 2020.

In 1958 measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide level began at Mauna Loa, Hawaii observatory. [chart above] On May 4th the observatory measured 415.39ppm, a level not occurring on Earth since the Pliocene Epoch 400,000 years ago when sea levels were 25 meters higher and global temperatures 2-3 degrees centigrade higher than today. So you can see Exxon's prediction was dead on. According to the report, “At the high end, some scientists suggest there could be considerable adverse impact including the flooding of some coastal land masses as a result of a rise in sea level due to melting of the Antarctic ice sheet,”  The report continued stating this would only take place centuries after temperatures warmed by 3 degrees Celsius. The Exxon engineers got that part wrong.

The Antarctic ice sheet is already melting.{20.05.19} The Fourth Annual National Climate Assessment, says unequivocally, "The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities".  In 2018, the United States alone experienced 14 different climate and weather-related disasters, each costing over a billion dollars. Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann says that at the current rate of increase atmospheric carbon dioxide will cross 450ppm in just over a decade.  That level will lock-in dangerous planetary warming of 3.5℉ 

Despite their accurate prognostication, Exxon continued to sell its fossil fuels unabated, nor did it inform government authorities of its alarming findings. Instead, like the tobacco industry which also pushes a toxic product, Exxon choose to spend millions on a disinformation campaign of climate change denial. The company knew in 1982 as evidenced by the chart that most of the world's remaining oil reserves would have to remain unexploited if the Earth was to avoid catastrophic climate change in the future. That conclusion, however, was extremely bad for business. US Person asks, anyone care to sue Exxon-Mobile, the world's largest international oil company, for selling a known hazardous substance to the world for 27 years?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More Tiger Cubs in India

Good news comes from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh  Eleven cubs have been spotted in three tiger reserves say forest officials.  However, India has also reported 14 tiger deaths this year.  The sightings are the first in many years, in what was once known as the 'tiger state'; statistics show that 97 tigers have died in the state since 2016 due to poaching and human conflict  The three cubs in Nauradehi Reserve [photo, credit India Times] are considered so precious that armed guards are posted to protect them.   It is the first litter of tigers Radha and Kishen, translocated to the sanctuary from other parks.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Antartica Ice Sheet Melts Some More

Data from the EU's CyroSat satellite [photo courtesy ESA] shows that West Antarctica's ice sheet is melting rapidly, thinning up to 400 feet in places,  The rapid melting is making the glaciers unstable and contributing to a global rise in sea levels, according to a study by Leeds University scientists. The region's largest ice steams, Pine Island and Twaites glaciers, are now loosing ice five times faster than they were in the 90's, surrounding ocean currents are a half a degree centigrade above freezing on average. Scientists were able to account for changes in snowfall, separating those effects of from changes in ice. The study results were published in Geophysical Research Letters.

CyroSat is at the end of its mission life; another satellite, Sentinel 3 will take its place making very accurate measurements of the Antarctic surface to detect changes in the ice sheet. From its 815km orbit it can detect changes in the ice surface to within a few tens of centimeters (10cm = 4in) A spokesman for the European Space Agency said that satellite data is extremely important in assessing the effects of climate change on Antartica, Earth's last unspoiled continental ecosystem, because of hostile weather conditions and remoteness.

Friday, May 17, 2019

'Toontime: Exceeding Expectations

credit: Mike Luckovich
Wackydoodle sez: Comin' from him, its a compliment!

This week the Very Crazy White House told Congress to 'pound sand' because they are not going to allow the Treasury to turn over Don Veto's tax lies in response to House subpoenas. Don Veto is no relation to Don Vito Casio Ferro of Castellammare de Golfo, Sicily. Casio Ferro was the real thing, not a cheap imitation¹. Don Veto's mental fitness for office is again in the press. Toyota is a national security threat? Ask the nearly half a million 'Mericans that work in Toyota's US based operations.

credit:Martin Kozlowski
BC Idonwanna sez: Him big tax geek!
Regarding Secretary Mnuchin's refusal to turn over six years of Don Veto's tax returns, he does so in clear and absolute violation of a federal tax code  provision [Section 6103(f)(1)] that makes submission mandatory. No "legislative purpose" is needed to justify compliance. If one was needed, the House Ways & Means Committee has one: deciding whether to make the previously voluntary disclosure of a candidate's tax returns required under law. Don Veto ignored decades of precedent beginning with Richard Nixon, which made such disclosure customary. Now that the "King of Debt" has flaunted that precedent, it is time to make presidential tax disclosure a law.  The solution to this standoff: Impeachment now!²

1Don Veto shared a prominent NY lawyer, Roy Cohn, with major mobsters including 'Fat Tony' Salerno, one-time head of the powerful Genovese crime family and John Gotti, who became head of the Gambino family.  A Genovese capo, Joseph 'Joe Glitz' Galizia  assistied Russian mobsters based in Brooklyn setting up a gasoline tax racket worth an estimated $1 billion a year beginning in the early 80s. A Colombo capo, Michael Franzese was also a partner in the action.  The operation was run by the Russian mobster Marat Balagula, an associate of the Lucchese family.  Because the scheme was so lucrative--second only to drugs--the New York Mafia 'Commission' imposed a 2¢ 'tax' on each gallon of bootlegged gasoline.  US Person does not endorse guilt by association, but it is worth while to consider whether this 'yuge' flow of illegal money needed to be washed to obscure its fraudulent source.  What better place to wash it than in casinos, which deal in nothing but money, or investment in real estate developments where a cash-strapped developer was desperate for capital? 

2 Have you read Mueller's report? No, well neither has Congress according to Rep. Justin Amash (R) who read the report and concluded that Don Veto has committed impeachable offenses, and that Attorney General Barr misrepresented the report.  From his twits, it is apparent that Amash (labeled a "lightweight looser" by the ever vicious Hair Further), understands the unique nature and function of the impeachment process in our constitutional system of government.  Impeachment is not limited to provable statutory crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, but includes abuses of power and conduct that violates the public's trust in the office.  It is a measure of the corrupt nature of our national government that so few representatives are fulfilling their official duties by reading the 400 page report created at great expense to form their own opinions on what it says and does not say.  Their lackadaisical approach and extreme partisanship is the political reality keeping "Desperate Don" in office.  Meanwhile, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are combing through thousands of pages of documents produced pursuant to subpoena issued in February for financial details of Trump's inauguration organization, which raised $107 million.  It is illegal to accept contributions from foreign sources.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Oregon's Spotted Frog in Trouble

Another prime example of a federal agency putting the business interests of a single rancher making profits off of public lands is the case of Oregon's spotted frog, Rana pretiosa, which is listed by the IUCN as vulnerable.  This acquatic frog occupies wetland were it enjoys warm, shallow water and feeding on a variety of insects.  Its range in Oregon includes Klamath, Lane and Deschutes counties.  One of the specie's stronghold is the Jack Creek drainage in the Fremont-Winema National Forest that contain the largest concentration of fens in the Pacific Northwest.

This is also the location of cattle grazing in the Antelope Allotment.  Most of the cattle naturally congregate around water sources.  Consequent trampling and pollution of  the wetlands is threatening the survival of the frog.  The Forest Service reacted to the problem by building fences, water troughs and other developments in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of a private profit company using public lands.  Twice the courts have found the Forest Service in violation of the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”) and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). The FWS biological opinion that reviewed grazing impacts was ruled arbitrary and capricious. 

It seems the lengths custodians of public property will go to protect private profit--so called "stakeholders" is boundless.  The agency is now proposing to renew the grazing permit and include six more miles of Jack Creek within the grazing area--prime spotted frog habitat.  The rationale for this action is that expansion of the permit area will spread out cattle impacts.  Nonsensical to say the least--just building a taller smokestack will not reduce cases of emphysema in local residents.  Why cannot the Forest Service simply end the allotment instead of spending more taxpayer money protecting private profit?  After all nature lovers are also tax paying citizens.   Answer: it is called "free enterprise" in 'Merica--land of the free, home of the subsidized.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bring the Handcuffs and the Hard Guys, Nancy!

Taunting his opponent in the constitutional crisis of the century, Robert Barr asked at a law enforcement event where both appeared if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "brought the handcuffs" referring to his defiance of a House subpoena for his testimony and documents, including the unredacted Mueller report.  Speaker Pelosi, ever polite, smiled and told Barr the House Sergeant at Arms is available if an arrest is needed. There also happens to be a small jail in the bowels of the Capitol building.

Don Veto's gang took their unconstitutional defiance of congressional oversight to new levels this week.  According to a Washington Post reporter the Very White House told the House Judiciary Committee that it has instructed 81 allies and associates not to comply with subpoenas for documents issued by Congress.  Attorneys for 'King of Debt' Trump wrote Chairman Nadler that the requests were invalid because they were a "do over" of the Mueller investigation and were therefore not a valid exercise of congressional power limited to legislative purposes, but were simply an effort to "harass political opponents" .  Their warped view of the Constitution means that no organ of government can hold a president responsible for wrongdoing committed while in office--a blanket immunity from prosecution enjoyed by banana republic dictators.  The Justice Department is handcuffed by a self-imposed policy not to indict a sitting president, created in an attempt to protect Richard Nixon and his cronies from accountability for their crimes.

Chairman Nadler called the regime's position "preposterous". He told CNN, “This is the White House claiming that the president is a king. This is the White House saying that the Justice Department said they can’t hold the president accountable because you can’t indict a president and now they’re saying neither can Congress. So the president is totally unaccountable and above the law." He went on to say that the House is considering enforcement avenues including more contempt citations and fines for disobedience to issued subpoenas. Attorney General Barr's contempt citation has passed to the floor of the House for a vote. Nadler would not rule out extreme measures to obtain wanted documentation. Note that one of the articles of impeachment passed out of committee against Nixon was for his regime's refusal to obey congressional subpoenas.

US Marines Want to Destroy Pristine Forest on Guam

As part of its $87 million buildup on Guam, in anticipation of its final exit from Okinawa, the US Marines want to destroy a 1,000 acres of pristine limestone forest to make room for a firing range.  The forest is one of the only remaining patches of contiguous untouched limestone forest on the island [photo left], home to the endangered Marianas fruit bat and the very last remaining mature hayun lágu (Serianthes nelsonii) tree.  The only other trees of this species, the tallest in the Marianas, live on nearby Rota island.

an endangered Heritiera longipetiolata tree
A botanist contracted by the Navy says the ecological impact of destroying the forest goes beyond the mere 8% of forest loss. That is because the rest of the forest on Guam is degraded and located on land captured by the military in 1944, making it vulnerable to development.  US Fish and Wildlife concurs with that assessment saying, the forest slated for destruction represents "some of the best native limestone forest left on Guam to serve as habitat for listed.  Unsuprisingly the Marines did not consider more suitable locations for their firing range, one not requiring the destruction of such valuable habitat.  The southern end of the island has already been cleared and converted to grassy savanna with plenty of room for development.  The agency advised the military not to locate their proposed range on Ritidian Point, but were ignored. 

The Marines have offered to mitigate the clearance by fencing off 400 hectares of degraded forest to "enhance" it by removing invasive species such as the brown tree snake, Philippine deer and feral pig, and by planting salvaged native seedlings. The snake consumes bird eggs and the ungulates consume native plant seedlings.  So much of the remaining limestone forest is silent and consists of aging trees.   But the Marines have already spent $1.1 million fencing off portions of the peninsula to protect against ungulates.  The plan is to tear down that fence.  Conservationists are concerned that any plan to restore forest by permanent fencing will be at the mercy of uncertain funding and future development plans.  It will take only one gap for invasive species to exploit and the fencing plan to fail.  Funding is anticipated to last only thirty years.

endangered fadang cyclad, credit S. Hiebert
Limestone forest are once submerged coral reefs pushed to the surface by tectonic forces.  Plants have put down roots in the deep crevices formed by limestone karst.  Dozens of endangered species have made homes in this environment.  They include include the critically endangered Mariana crow (Corvus kubaryi), fragile tree snail (Samoana fragilis) and Guam tree snail (Partula radiolata).  The Marines say the acre for acre trade of pristine forest for "enhanced" forest is a net benefit for the island's ecosystem.  Conservationists disagree.  They point to relocation plans for some species such that are not ecologically appropriate or to areas slated for other development. In addition to developing Ritidian Point, the Marines plan to take over two other smaller islands where native species still thrive, Tinian and Pagan, for ecologically destructive war games.  The native Chamoro people accuse the US military of obscuring its development plan's cumulative impact on the Mariana Islands.   ecosystem.  The 'empire' wins out yet again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Don Peacock's Grizzly Country

Enjoy this inspiring video by Don Peacock, Vietnam veteran, who tells of his love for the grizzly and its home--the American wilderness--our nation's greatest asset.  Peacock says the wilderness is the best antidote for the "metaphysical icky-poos" and the locus of our survival as a species.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

COTW: Don Veto's Trail of Red Ink

You, dear reader, are no doubt aware of the truth behind Don Veto's braggadocio about being the best businessman of his generation. The NY Times destroyed that claim with its lengthy financial exposé showing a ten year trail of red ink and no taxes paid. [chart below] The investigative journalists got their hands on ten year's worth of federal income tax transcripts (1985-95) from third parties in legal possession of the information.  These transcripts are considered to be accurate by tax experts.

Here is what inquiring minds want to know now: In 1989 Don Veto reported $52.9 million in interest income.  This large amount is an outlyer compared to other years in which he also reported interest income. In '86 he only reported $460,566; in '87 he reported $5,500,000 and in the next $11,800,000. Interest from investments such as bonds, mortgages and bank accounts usually show a steady stream of income absent large portfolio changes. For his interest income to jump to $52.9 million, he would have had to own roughly $378 million in bonds at 14%, for example.  Yet Don Veto suffered $181.7 million in business  losses that same year.  The same year he sold the Manhattan St. Moritz Hotel for $180 million.

Even in the junk bond era of the 1980's that is a large position which would show up in other financial reports.  Don Veto owns casinos, so he is subject to additional financial reporting to state agencies governing casino operations. New Jersey casino regulators have no indication of assets owned by Don Veto capable of generating that much interest income in one year; neither do 1990 reports prepared by an independent accounting firm hired by him at his banker's request show such assets. His interest income fell in 1990 to $18.7 million, and fell again the next year. Where did all this "manna" come from? This pregnant question, among many others, should be answered by the investigating House committees. Impeachment is the best way Mr. Nadler, and perhaps the only way given the Executive's unconstitutional defiance*, to do this; turning a blind eye to Don Veto's obvious criminality is betraying democracy. 

credit: New York Times
*Admittedly Individual I is accustomed to conflict, as one commentator said, it is his modus operandi: he has been involved in 4,095 lawsuits as a party during his business career. He may thrive on litigation, but that does not excuse Congress from carrying out its constitutional duties.  Democratic leaders are worried that Don Veto is goading them into impeachment proceedings for political gain.  Any possibility that the public could view impeachment as an exercise in partisan divisiveness could be expelled by carefully written impeachment articles.  Robert Mueller has demonstrated there are already non-partisan grounds on which to begin the process.  More evidence will come to light as the proceedings continue because Congress would then have unquestionable power to investigate substantial allegations of other wrong doing by this rogue President.  Now, the Trump gang has the legal argument that the investigations are not related to a legislative purpose.  Of course that argument does not stand up, but it takes time and effort to dispute it court, diverting resources from investigation of his finances, taxes, emoluments, obstruction, and connection to the Kremlin.  His stonewalling of current cautious efforts by the House to uncover additional information is already costing him public support.  And his son's refusal to obey a lawful Senate subpoena is also sending clear signals to his political supporters that it will be costly for them in the end.   If any president in the nation's history needs congressional oversight, it is Donald Trump. 

Yes, the entire Mueller report should be released at least to Congress, just as the full Cox report was demanded during Watergate.  But in that laborious process the House should not loose sight of why it should read it.  As Rep. Jack Brooks said in 1974, “The theme of this [impeachment] article is we’re gonna get that son of a bitch out of there!”  When the Texas Representative was chosen to serve on Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas impeachment committee, Brooks wrote of the then little understood impeachment process:  "Impeachment resembles a regular criminal indictment and trial but it is not the same thing. It relates solely to the accused’s right to hold civil office … the framers of the Constitution clearly established that impeachment is a unique political device; designed explicitly to dislodge from public office those who are patently unfit for it, but cannot otherwise be promptly removed … About the only thing authorities can agree upon … is that an offense need not be indictable to be impeachable. In other words, something less than a criminal act or criminal dereliction of duty may nevertheless be sufficient grounds for impeachment and removal from public office." Thus, even though Mueller could not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy to illegally influence the 2016 election, The Trump campaign organization's willingness to cooperate with Russian espionage operations could be considered an impeachable offense because it demonstrates his disloyalty to the United States' Constitution. Thus, he is unfit to hold public office.  It is worthwhile to note that of the three impeachment articles passed out of the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon was, "Article III—Disobeying Subpoenas from Congress"

Friday, May 10, 2019

'Toontime: It Is Happening Here

Those readers familiar with Sinclair Lewis' classic understand the reference.  The striking parallels between Trump and Benito Mussolini are not just superficial, but historical and ideological, as several commentators have written. His conscious adoption of Mussolini-like grimaces and gestures are alarming as well as amusing to see:

Obama referred to Trump as our own "home grown authoritarian".  But it is quite obvious that Don Veto Trumpillni as taken more than a few cues from his Italian predecessor. Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco wrote that "Ur-Fascism", that is, eternal fascism for it will be with us as long as there are liberal governments in the world, has defining characteristics. As you read them, ask yourself how many has Trump exhibited during his campaign, election and tenure in office.; US Person thinks his score is almost perfect, unlike his business record:
1. The cult of tradition: He demands professional football players stand for the anthem. He embraces religious fundamentalism. He knows what he knows and there is no higher truth.
2. Rejection of modernism: He rejects science which he describes as a hoax. He denies the conclusion of his own intelligence establishment about Russian espionage and goes with his "gut", or his bank account, as the case may be.
3. The cult of action: See the quote from Mussolini above regarding the necessity of appearing to be "doing something" all time. The appearance of constant heroic action maintains the personality cult that supports the dictator. The fact that he is a failed businessman who inherited his initial wealth ($413 million) is unimportant to his idolizing base.  Governance is converted into a circus show in which Trump is the ring master;  legislating is now replaced by rants from the Internet.  The border wall and related government shutdown is a costly example of this "action for action's sake" that achieves little of lasting significance.
4. Disagreement is treason: In modern culture disagreement is one way new knowledge is obtained, but not in fascist culture.  The leader knows what's best and no disagreement is tolerated.  How many of Don Veto's staff have quit or been fired?  He committed obstruction of justice attempting to get his way over staff objections, and he has surrounded himself with yes-men like Robert Barr.  He suggests former Secretary of State John Kerry should be prosecuted for talking to Iran. 5. Fear of difference:He infamously labeled immigrants "rapists" and "drug-dealers", fanning the hate of white supremacy. He illegally banned Muslim travel to the US for fear of the other.
6. Appeal to frustrated middle classes: Trump won the presidency by concentrating his efforts in Rust Belt swing states where white voters had lost jobs and economic status to globalization.
7. Obsession with plots:  Trump constantly complains about the opposition of the shadowy "deep state" and neoliberal political establishment plotting against him. Thus a legitimate investigation into foreign election meddling becomes a "witch hunt" or "hoax".
8. Enemies are weak and powerful at the same time:Enemies are portrayed as powerful to engender support from his followers, but at the same time are derided as weak, deceitful or decadent.  He complains about the power of the press, yet derides it as producing "fake news".  ISIS is defeated, yet still requires foreign intervention by the United States.
9. Life is permanent warfare:  Trump sees himself as constantly besieged by enemies, as is the nation.  Only he, a virile man of action, can save the nation from immigration, terrorism, and bad trade deals. Disagreement with him over state policy is treason.  Trump once quoted Mussolini in a tweet, “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” 
10. Contempt for the weak:  He is infamous for mistreating his employees and contractors. As long as you agree with him, a person is all right.  If you disagree with him, a person incurs his wrath.  Thus Steve Bannon is closest political advisor is “my Steve” when he agrees with Trump, but “Sloppy Steve” and someone who has “lost his mind” when he disagrees with Trump or criticizes him. Socialist Bernie Sanders is dismissed as "crazy".
11. The cult of death:  Eco says that a fascist leader embraces death, but more frequently he rushes others to their end instead of himself.  Trump has exhibited his willingness to expend other lives in his harsh treatment of children immigrants at the border.
12. Machismo: sublimates the work of permanent war and heroic action into the sexual sphere.  Don Veto has publicly boasted about his claimed sexual prowess with women. He also made illegal payments to silence women with which he had sexual relations.  What other president in our history is so blatant about his sexual activity?
13. Selective populism:  Only Trump can "make America great again" because only he can discern and define the "popular will". However, his interest in the welfare of the people appears to be limited to his white supremacist supporters.  The people become an audience whose only role is to applaud the pronouncements of the ultimate leader, who delegitimizes existing democratic institutions.  Thus, congressional constitutional oversight becomes partisan vendetta.
14. Speech using impoverished vocabulary to limit reasoning:  Mussolini was a teacher and journalist before becoming a politician.  He knew the power of the written word, so when he achieved office he imposed strict state censorship of media. Trump has institutionalized 140 word "tweeting" as an instrument of policy.  His attacks on the established press and journalists not aligned with him are well known; he calls them the "enemy of the people".  The Internet, with its compressed form of communication, is facilitating a "post-truth" social environment, that allows "spin", denial, and vilification by a plutocratic fraud to replace reasoned, deliberative discourse.  How else could the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil War be reduced to a partisan "witch hunt" against an innocent victim in the public mind? 
Trump poses a clear and present danger to our form of coordinate, representative democracy. His stonewall defense against obstruction of justice and other crimes is stressing our political institutions in an unprecedented manner.  If our elected representatives refuse to admit that he is a danger, and do not take effective action to remove him from office for his crimes, then Sinclair Lewis' dire prediction from the depths of the Great Depression will be fulfilled in our lifetimes.  Then the pagan Benito Mussolini will truly rise from the dead.


Thursday, May 09, 2019

Life in Korea's DMZ

A rare and endangered Asian black bear was photographed in Korea's DMZ, providing evidence that wildlife is making the uninhabited zone home.  Boarder guards had reported seeing black bears, but this is the first corroborative evidence. [photo]  Camera traps were placed in the DMZ by South Korea's Institute of Technology.  The reoccupation of the 155 mile long and 2.5 mile wide zone, heavily fortified by wire, electric fencing, cameras, mines and guard towers, by wildlife is another example of nature's ability to recover from man's inhumanity.  The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is another prominent example.  The bear is young weighing 25 to 35 kilos and is believed to be the offspring of bears inhabiting the area for a long time.

South Korea's government says there are over 100 endangered species living in the zone, which is becoming a tourist attraction as the only remaining 'iron curtain' of the Cold War. About 6.5 million visitors come to peek into the hermit kingdom of North Korea.  South Korea has plans to convert the strip of land into a ecological reserve, and is building hiking trails into the DMZ near the border towns of Cheorwon and Paju.

The zone was cut off from human habitation and development in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, so it has become a pristine nature reserve despite the continuous human hostility across the armed barriers [photo]; although land mines around the armistice site of Pamunjon were cleared last year by joint agreement. About 5,000 species live in the DMZ in peace, including the very rare red crowned crane and endangered black spoonbill.  It is possible that the extremely endangered Amur leopard has also found refuge in the DMZ, but sightings could have been mistaken the Eurasian lynx.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

COTW: No Collusion, Let US Count the Ways

This chart is a little tongue in cheek, admittedly, but it makes a point, i.e., the public does not yet know the depth or breadth of Individual I's relationship with the Kremlin. What Mueller based his legalistically narrow conclusion on was a partial record of that relationship.  There were 37 known meetings and at least 33 high-ranking campaign officials and Trump advisers aware of contacts with Russia-linked operatives during the campaign and transition. The Special Counsel said of the relationship, “the investigation established that several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Those lies materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”  It is up to the House of Representatives to further investigate the extent of Individual I's collusion with Russian agents.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

'Toontime: The Black Hole Closer to Home

credit: Patrick Chappette
Wackydoodle sez: He's yuge!

Update:  The Whitest House ordered a former counsel, Don McGahn, not to comply with a congressional subpoena.  McGahn had until today to turn over subpoenaed documents to the House Judiciary Committee.  McGahn is seen as crucial to making a public case for impeaching Don Veto because he told Mueller about his former boss's order to fire the Special Counsel.  Robert Mueller will also probably not appear because the dictator has nixed this idea too in a twit over the weekend.  This comes after his trained attorney general¹ told the Senate he would have no objections to Mueller testifying to Congress.  Just how many more slaps in the face Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats will endure before authorizing impeachment proceedings to commence remains to be fathomed.  Repugnants are shouting in unison, "case closed" when it has in reality only just begun.

The power of the Big Lie is remarkable, and Don Veto is playing that for all it is worth.  A former Justice Department spokesman offered his opinion, “I know of no instance where the [Justice] department has been able to affirmatively restrain anyone from executing their First Amendment rights, especially if they were responding to a lawful subpoena.”  US Person says, it is a minor relief to know the First Amendment is still good law, even if you cannot find a job. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a motion to cite the Attorney General for contempt of Congress.

{4.05.19) Is it because this has been seen before that official Washington is doing its dead level best to run away from a corrupt executive undermining the very charter he is sworn to uphold from "all enemies foreign and domestic"? Democratic legislators' lack of urgency, and instincts for nothing but official self-preservation is offensive to the extreme. Why don't more people vote? Look no further than the here and now: they simply do not think they are being represented, so why bother. Trump has built his political viability on the bedrock of an inflamed reactionary base that is occasionally and alarmingly out of touch with reality. Why else would they cheer his outrageous lies, bombastic and incendiary rhetoric, nonsensical policies, and distracting political brawls? It is time for a united front against the forces of authoritarianism, or the pusillanimity of Democratic hacks will be our nation's undoing. Trump has shot democracy on 5th Avenue in broad daylight. Now the only question is: will his boast prove accurate?

Congressional oversight is a fundamental feature of our co-equal system of federal governance. Forcing Congress to resort to litigation to obtain Executive Branch cooperation when there is evidence of serious malfeasance on the record is resource consuming and contemptible. To label the Russian investigation a political "witch hunt" or a "hoax" is as deceitful as the lies they spin about Don Veto's relationship with Vladimir Putin. Worse than that, it is debilitating. But as long as the very white boys foment a massive legal battle with Mr. Nadler and his colleagues, they will never have to even talk in public about the boss' real connection². Except when Individual I gets on the phone with his buddy Vladimirovitch to laugh about the whole enchilada. If Putin's web-based interference in our election process was intended to undermine our political institutions, which is the conclusion of our own intelligence establishment, then Putin has received a "yuge" return on his investment.

credit John Cole
BC Idonwanna sez; Operators are standing by!

1.  Noam Chomsky told a BBC interviewer that he thinks comparisons of the Trump regime to Nazi fascism are inaccurate primarily because there is no fascist party organization, or Sturmabteilung. Who needs these when there are organized, arm white militias, a mesmerized supremacist mob, and high officials willing to do the leader's bidding regardless of law? Call it proto-fascism if you must, but it is only a matter of time before Trumpism matures into the real thing. FBI Director Comey was not alarmed by implications of Operation Crossfire Hurricane--Hillary would win the election by 'yuge' margins. NOT. No need to impeach because the electorate will take care of the problem? Think again, Sherlock. The Constitution and the rule of law are worth more of a defense than political expediency!

2. Trumpland has launched two lawsuits to block subpoenas for evidence from third persons, refused to allow Executive branch officials to testify to Congress, and is now trying to figure out how it can stop former official Don McGahn, a private citizen who is willing to appear, from testifying before Congressional committees when executive privilege has already been waived. The Justice Department is refusing to hand over the unredacted Mueller report and its supporting evidence, claiming the congressional demands are "not legitimate oversight" The very white boys' contempt of Congress knows no bounds: the Treasury Department has blown past two deadlines for surrendering Individual I's tax returns that it is REQUIRED by law to divulge. Barr's blatantly obvious shilling for his corrupt boss is just one aspect of the Very White House's aggressive cover-up. The operation makes Nixon's White House cover-up operation look pathetic.

Barr endorses an extreme philosophy of executive power and has a history of mischaracterizing unfavorable conclusions and information in so-called 'summaries'.  When he worked at DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel, he issued a secret memorandum authorizing the FBI to make fugitive arrests overseas even if the extraterritorial arrests violated international law. This memo apparently justified the abduction and transportation to the US of Panamanian dictator, Manual Noriega, to face drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Congress demanded to see the opinion. Barr refused to release it, instead offering to provide an account that he said “summarizes the principal conclusions.” He used the same language to describe his four page whitewash of the Mueller Report. When the secret memo finally saw the light of day, Barr’s summary had omitted some of the most consequential and incendiary conclusions from the actual opinion. You cannot give Barr credit for originality, but at least he is consistent.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Emperor Penguins Suffer Catastrophic Breeding Failure

Emperor Penguins, Aptenodytes forsteri, are famous for their intrepid ability to breed and raise chicks in the darkness of the ferocious Antarctic winter, the only penguin species to take on this formidable task. However, the second largest colony of these giants has suffered a disastrous breeding failure according to a recent study.  Since 2016 the Halley Bay colony has been photographed from above by satellites recording a complete breeding failure, something that has never been recorded before. The Halley Bay colony located on the Brunt Ice Shelf has been surveyed since the 1950's; UK's Halley Research Station is in the vicinity.  The colony supported 14,000 to 25,000 individuals, or between 5 to 9% of the world's population, but in 2016 abnormally heavy El Nino storms broke up the sea ice in October, long before the chicks had fledged and were ready to go to sea.  The same unfortunate event happened in 2017 and 2018.

Brunt Ice Shelf (BRU) is on the east coast of the Weddell Sea
In the same time period the Dawson-Lambton colony, fifty-five kilometers to the south has grown ten fold.  Scientists assume that the increase is due to penguins migrating to what has become a safer location. To insure their chicks have the best chance to survive, females lay their eggs in May, the beginning of the Antarctic winter.  They only lay their eggs on the sea ice, not land, so they rely on a stable ice platform to raise their young.  The early breakup for three years in a row, which could be attributable to global climatic change, proved to be too much for these extremely hardy birds.  Scientists are unable to say whether the Halley Bay colony will cease to exist in the future as the annual population continues to decline. As Antarctica warms and sea ice coverage is reduced [map], penguin numbers are predicted to drop.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

More Smoke and Mirrors

Update: So Barr lied to Congress, what else is new? Just another example of the utter contempt the very white fascist boys have for do-nothing Democrats. This is Pickett's Charge all over again--doomed to failure, but they have nothing to loose except a permanently right-wing government, and a rigged political system that backs them up. As they say in poker, it's all on the table.  Your play, Nancy, and remember your are playing for democracy stakes.

{01.05.19} US Person asks, why should 'Mericans take the time to read a 400+ page report when the House of Representatives is apparently not going to impeach a President that arguably has committed impeachable offenses?  The Swamp is fascinated by endless mindgames and mendacity, not defending the Constitution.  The unindicted co-conspirator named Individual I is engaged in an all out resistance to any congressional inquiry short of impeachment proceedings. But the party in control of the House is simply too spineless to go that route; they are willing to substitute endless hearings with no real outcome to provide what one Democratic lawmaker termed, "a form of entertainment".

Don Veto has launched a preemptive strike in the form of unprecedented lawsuits intended to block several subpoenas already issued as well as testimony from subordinates and family members.  His suits want to block subpoenas issued to third parties too.  Chairman Elizah Cumming's demand for eight years worth of financial documents from Mazars USA is characterized in one filing as an effort to "harass the President", and an abuse of power.  Cummings has made a similar demand to Capital One.  He told the press that Don Veto has a history of using litigation to browbeat his opponents, and there is no valid legal basis for objecting to Congress' oversight authority.

The "Bengahzi approach", as some are calling it, refers to the seemingly endless hearings on the 2012 Bengahzi terrorist attack convened by Repugnants.  The hearings eventually led to the discovery of Hillary Clinton's unauthorized email server that haunted her 2016 campaign.  Clearly this approach is a political weapon intended to damage Don Veto's re-election chances; so it is subject to the valid criticism of harassment since it avoids the elephant-sized constitutional crisis presented by the impeachment process for his crimes.  Democrats have to either live up to the separation of powers doctrine, or bow their heads to the new fascist dictator of 'Merica.  They cannot have their favorable "optics" and defend the Constitution too.  In the context of impeachment proceedings, the House would have much more flexibility to enforce the production of evidence and testimony, including the underlying materials at the center of Mueller’s investigation.  Even Repugnants admit that: “I don’t know, frankly, if it’s such a bad thing for Democrats to do that [start impeachment]. Once you get these things and you explore it, who knows where it goes?” said Tom Davis, a former Virginia GOP congressman who chaired the House Oversight Committee.

Meanwhile, the subpoenas go unanswered. The Judiciary Committee is in negotiations for Mueller's testimony, which could be the blockbuster hearing of them all.  One of the first questions they should ask him is why he did not subpoena Trump Jr. as a witness. 'MiniMe' was present at the pivotal Manhattan Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives, and was aware of the then forthcoming release of DNC emails purloined by Russian agents.  The Judiciary Committee also wants to examine Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, former top aides.  Why not call Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, who knows about five more hush money payments, and has been given immunity by federal investigators?  He is the one individual who knows more about the Trump Organization finances then anyone.  If you need a list of questions to ask him, Congress members, go here.

By now it is clear Attorney General Barr is part of the aggressive stonewall campaign being conducted by the Very White House.  His ridiculous four page "summary" of the Mueller investigation is more a misleading whitewash designed to give his boss plausible deniability.  Even Robert Mueller, a team player to the end, objected to Barr's misstatement of his findings in a letter sent last month saying Barr's "summary" did not capture the context, nature and substance of his findings. Barr returned the favor by attacking Mueller in his testimony before the Senate today.  Fourteen related criminal referrals from the Special Counsel are under his control. What a crew!

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Last, Safe Place for Elephants?

Botswana is thought of as the last safe place for African elephants, but apparently that thought is no longer accurate.  At least 87 elephants whose remains were discovered in recent months were executed for their ivory by poachers.  The conservation organization, Elephants Without Boarders, was conducted an aerial survey when observers noticed carcasses around the Okavango Delta, far from the boarders where most poaching occurs.  This year's survey is only halfway complete.  The government disputes the embarrassing information, but the organization's director stands by the accuracy of the count.  He says each carcass has a noted GPS location; every flight has four people including a government observer.

Botswana is home to 130,000 elephants, about a third of the continent's population of savanna elephants.  The Great Elephant Census took place in 2016 and recorded a population drop of 30%.  Up until now Botswana's elephants largely have escaped the carnage wreaked by the poaching plague.  But the recording carcasses indicate organized poaching teams have infiltrated the country, just as the government decided to disarm rangers.  In 2014 Botswana adopted an unwritten shoot-to-kill policy, but in May new president Mokgweetsi Masisi disarmed the country's anti-poaching unit as a "corrective measure" since there was no legal authority for the prior policy.  According to filmmaker Dereck Joubert, there are still 800 armed BDF (Botswana Defense Force) soldiers in the field assigned to assist the Department of Wildlife and National Parks rangers.

A shoot to kill in defense of elephants policy is controversial, but there is little disagreement that rangers need to be armed, even if only for self-defense.  Poachers are organized criminal gangs that use military weapons to harvest ivory.  In 2012 three hundred elephants were killed in a mass slaughter by poachers using AK-47s and grenades in Cameroon.  Some observers say the government's hunting ban contributes to the increase in Botswana poaching. Elephants in neighboring countries have been decimated, and China's demand for ivory appears unabated despite its ban on ivory sales imposed in 2017.  Hong Kong and Japan both have legal ivory markets.