Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Democratic Debates 2.0

US Person wishes to comment on last night's Second Democratic Debate: 
  • The theme of last night's debate was piling on the progressive wing of the party represented by Sanders and Warren.  They successfully defended their progressive proposals from attacks by lesser, centrist candidates.  At one point, Senator Warren pointedly asked one critic, why he bothered running for President if all he was going to do was tell people why we cannot have a progressive policy agenda;
  • Bernie has to do a better job of explaining why it is necessary to do away with private health issuers.  Warren was better on this point. The answer is basically because America has tried the corporate for profit system and it is broken.  Keeping it will not solve the fundamental problems with health care as a profitable commodity.  The paradigm must shift to health care as a social good to which every citizen is entitled.  If union members have good insurance, Medicare for All will be better because it is comprehensive, universal, provides more choice, and is less expensive overall;
  • Yes, Senator Sanders "wrote the damn bill", but how will he pay for it?  Discussion in the next rounds needs to be focused on fiscal issues.  Warren's proposed wealth tax may be problematic, but there are less problematic ways of raising more revenue to pay for universal health care, student loan forgiveness, free public college education, etc.  Doing away with the preferential capital gains tax that benefits mostly the rich is a good idea.  Removing the income cap on FICA taxes is a direct way to secure the social security system against future insolvency.  Sanders' idea for a transaction tax on financial speculation is a good one, but there should also be a luxury excise tax--easier to enforce than a wealth tax--on consumption items such as multiple homes, yachts, airplanes, collectible cars, art, and jewels.  Raising the top income tax brackets and reconstituting the estate tax are also possibilities.  And it goes without saying, reduce the enormous war machine budget by at least 20%.
  • Ms Williamson's emotional identification of root inequality issues in our sick society had an impact.  She emphasized the need for structural change, not half measures;
  • Socialism is no longer evil, and Sanders can beat the fraud occupying the Very White House even as a self-proclaimed democratic socialist.  The fact is that capitalism has failed to generate an equitable, compassionate society.  So-called 'pragmatic' status quo candidates like Biden, Harris and their corporate backers must be blamed for that failure;
  • Guns, especially military assault weapons, are the problem
  • More emphasis needs to be made on getting big money out of elections and identifying those Democratic politicians who depend on corporate contributions.  US Person noted well the advertisement during the debate and outed by Bernie, of pharmaceutical companies "defending innovation" Translation: no social medicine is acceptable to those billion dollar profit makers, and they will use their money to insure Medicare for All never arrives;
  • Several candidates said Obama wanted a public option--not true. {08/07/09} Obama did not insist on a public option, instead submitting to intense lobbying as the Senate prepared to vote on the Affordable Care Act. Former Obama healthcare advisor, Andy Slavitt had close ties to the world largest health insurer, United Health. Obamacare effectively cut off the challenge presented to profit medicine by the public option;
  • Timidity is not the way to win this election.  The people who wanted the change promised by Obama did not get it.  Sanders and his grass roots movement have to deliver the goods.  To accomplish ambitious goals, a Democratic Congress sans the current filibuster rule will be necessary, but being willing to fight for policies you believe in is just as important. Sanders has been doing that since his days as a young socialist in Brooklyn.
As the field whittles down and more time becomes available to competitive candidates, US Person looks forward to more content than just sound bytes.

credit: Getty Images

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

India Has More Tigers

India's government estimates that there are 3,000 Bengal tigers in the wild, a 33% increase from 2014. Good news from a country whose human population continues to increase, threatening to overrun the magnificent feline.  Human conflicts are also increasing in a country that contains 1.3 billion people. India has created two dozen new tiger reserves in the last decade, but most are surrounded by villages.  Tigers are spilling out of reserves into inhabited areas looking for territory and food.  T-1 is a leading example of the problem of lack of space.  The female stalked the hills of central India for two years evading pursuers. She was blamed for 13 deaths.  Officials tried to capture her using elephants and tranquilizers last fall, but failed.  She was shot dead in November of last year despite a legal appeal to India's supreme court to spare her life.  There are only about 4000 tigers left in the wild.

Just last week, villagers near Philibit Tiger Reserve 200 miles east of New Delhi beat a tiger to death. The disturbing video of the incident outraged India; the New York Times liked it to a lynching.  The dying tiger, first speared, can be seen groaning on the ground try to block blows with its paws as humans repeatedly hit it in the face with bamboo poles. The tiger died hours later, suffering multiple wounds and broken bones. The villagers said the cat attacked several people.  Trouble started when a the 5 to 6 year old female attacked a man who entered the reserve to fish in her territory.  Villagers attempted to chase the tiger away; in the ensuing battle eight more people were injured, one of whom died latter.  A posse was quickly formed to seek revenge on the animal.  They roughed up a few rangers who arrived on scene to intervene and snatched their mobile phone when they called for backup.  The rangers were  armed only with sticks.  When senior forest officials tried to reach the scene, villagers blocked them, while the hunt proceeded.  Thirty people have been identified as involved in the killing and at least four have been arrested.

Madhya Pradesh state has the most tigers with 500, according to the survey prepared for India's National Tiger Conservation Authority.  Some parts of eastern India are still loosing tigers.  Several premier reserves have no tigers at all, according to a leading tiger conservationist, Valmik Thapar.  Mr. Thapar thinks the numbers pronounced by the government are generally correct.  Some experts think the population increase could be due to improved counting techniques.  Mr. Thaper hopes that India tiger population can return to the 1980s level of about 4,000, but there is a long way to go.  “We need to focus on doing something about these problems,” he said. “We must look after these national treasures.”  Prosecuting tiger killers, and connecting fragmented forest habitat are ways to make it clear India is serious about protecting its remaining natural treasures. [young tigers in Maharashtra state; photo credits, NYT]

Monday, July 29, 2019

Another Bailout for the Defunct Nuclear Power Industry

Ohio Repugnants, who control the state government, refused to bailout the state's troubled nuclear power industry for years.  Faced with a political boycott, First Energy, the owner of two plants on the verge of bankruptcy, asked, what to do?  Answer: why of course, flood the political field with alternative Repugnants willing to dole out subsidies to defeat key legislators opposed to help a dying industry.  The company's bankruptcy filings revealed how a bankrupt company spent $30 million during 2018-19 on lobbying campaigns in Ohio and Pennsylvania, where it owns another busted nuclear plant.

First Energy used stealth tactics to cover their tracks using fronts like Conservative Leadership Alliance and Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance.  Thank you, Citizens United.  Anyone who attempts to argue that nuclear energy is "clean" knows nothing about radioactive waste streams in this country.   company got a $1.1 billion in government subsidy for its $30 million political investment.  Another industry front, Generation Now, spent $2 million on TV adds in favor of subsidizing the industry. Of course subsidizing nuclear power is contrary to what Ohio residents want, but that is why the company paid for the legislators who passed it.  Five cash-strapped states across the country have foisted more than $15 billion in subsidies on failing nuclear power plants since 2016; if there is any more effective testimony about the ability of nuclear power to compete against natural gas and truly clean alternative, US Person does not know about it.

In Ohio, the battle between incumbent House Speaker, Ryan Smith and corporate-owned Larry Householder was fought in 18 competitive primary districts.  Household sponsored a bailout bill in the 2018 legislature that was tabled. Thanks to the infusion of dark money, Householder won 15 of the 18 contested districts.  In addition to the indirect funding, First Energy directly contributed $150,000 to Householder and aligned candidates.  His primary win put him in position to occupy the Speaker's chair, and presumably further aid his masters.  In January Householder delivered by pushing through HB6 over opposition from Repugnants and Democrats.  First Energy rewarded him with a free charter trip to Il Douche's inauguration.  When asked if dark money was responsible for Ohio throwing money at a dying industry, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) said, “I mean, these things happen because these moneyed interests control the state legislature. There’s no question about it.”  An industry expert thinks that for nuclear power to be a viable solution to climate warming construction on one thousand plants worldwide would have to begin construction this year--absurd.

Compared to what happened in South Carolina, the Ohio bailout is a bargain. The cost of a failed nuke there cost $9 billion.  After the corporate restructurings were over, taxpayers got stuck with a $2.3 billion bill.  The South Carolina plant has not produced a single kilowatt of power, and is in fact little more than a hole in the ground.  What amazes US Person, who litigated against an industry that claimed its power was "too cheap to meter", is that after such a dismal performance record and wildly escalating costs over sixty years, some still believe nuclear power to be an answer to the climate crisis. NOT. Just ask the taxpayers of Ohio, South Carolina, New York, Illinois and New Jersey.

Friday, July 26, 2019

'Toontime: Broken Record

credit: Adamn Zyglis, Buffalo News
BC Idonwanna sez:  Turn up the volume!
So Mueller testified, and Congress blew the Swamp for August. Let US put the blame for the demise of democracy squarely where it belongs: unmotivated, craven politicians who put political calculus ahead of defending the Constitution.  Mueller did his job and gave the Congress an impeachment referral; in his careerist view he could do no more. On its face, the document has more than enough evidence to justify beginning an impeachment inquiry. Second guessing the eventual outcome of the process defeats its salubrious purpose.  'Fake impeachment' is not enough because nobody, let alone the courts, will take that show seriously. Take a vote in committee and be done with the psychodrama, Chairman Nadler; you have the votes. Speaker Pelosi and other spineless Demos can still defeat impeachment on the floor, if they continue to believe playing craps with the remnants of democracy is politically expedient. Are you forgetting there is a five year statute of limitations on federal crimes?

Il Douche is apparently correct when he said he could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and get away with it. Just the other day the delusional-in-chief said he 'could do anything because Article II' and accused Mueller of "treason". This dangerous poser has no appreciation of the system of coordinate branches of government, but he does have a deep narcissistic desire to be 'prezdent' for life. His enablers in Congress are therefore equally despicable. Now, because of a anachronistic, undemocratic voting system apparently subject to more foreign hacking to come* this imposter has better than an even chance of four more years in power--only in 'Merica, land of the deranged! Talk about a cluster f***!

credit: Joe Heller
Wackydoodle sez: Pelosi & Hoyer put on a show and nobody watched!

*Earlier this month a University of Tennessee Knoxville study funded by the Defense Department found that Trump’s polling upticks during the 2016 campaign correlated with social media activity by Russian trolls and bots. According to the study, every 25,000 retweets from troll and bot accounts connected with Russia’s Internet Research Agency predicted a 1 percent bump in Trump’s polling. The study's lead researcher told NBC news that given only 75,000 votes in three swing states made the election's difference, the possibility that the Russian agitprop campaign materially affected the election cannot be ruled out.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Apocalypse Now

Is another Lehman Bros. moment suddenly upon us?  You may uncomfortably recall that it was the collapse of the giant Lehman Bros. investment bank that precipitated the Great Recession crisis of 2008.  Another giant bank, Deutsche Bank, the biggest in Europe, and friend of Don Veto Trumpilini is on the verge of melting down.  Plagued by money laundering accusations, The bank is attempting to reorganize; it laid off 18,000 employees on July 7th.  More ominously, the bank has a derivatives exposure of $49 trillion.  It cannot survive if clients begin removing funds.  Reports are that a billion dollars a day are being removed, destroying the bank's remaining positive capitalization.

The GAO recently released its audit of secret loans made to DB during the Great Recession. You may also remember that the great liberal, Barrack Obama, bailed out Wall Street with trillions of taxpayer dollars instead of divesting the banks "too large to fail". DB took out $354 billion in revolving loans from the Federal Reserve.  In contrast the bank's home country, Germany has only shelled out $79 billion since the crisis attempting to rescue its troubled financial institutions.  Why did the US government rescue a foreign bank?  Because Wall Street.  DB is counterparty to major US financial institutions like Goldman Sachs; if DB were to go under, it could drag down domestic victims too.  Deutsche Bank’s derivative tentacles extend into most of the major Wall Street banks. According to a 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Deutsche Bank is also heavily interconnected financially to JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America and other mega banks in Europe. The bank's share price has plummeted from $19 at the beginning of 2018 to just $8 at the end of that year.  Shareholders lost $23 billion in market capitalization.

So counterparties are looking to ditch the sinking ship.  A major reason is the bank's feeble attempt to reduce its mind-numbing high-risk derivatives exposure--it has managed only a 10% reduction since the crisis.  DB is now attempting to retreat from its previous aggressive desire to be a major player in international finance, but it is finding it extremely difficult to avoid the kind of liquidity squeeze that brought down Lehman.  DB wants to transfer $168 billion in prime brokerage accounts to the French mega bank PNB Paribas.  It is assiduously avoiding calling the transfer a liquidity infusion, but in effect that is what it is.  Spooking the market is the last thing Deutsche Bank wants.  But there is one major problem: nothing is preventing those clients who would be forcibly moved from a German banking giant to a French banking giant from redeeming their funds in the 21st century version of a bank run.

Not Very Huge Jaws

credit: M. Doosey
That favorite summertime box office fear, the shark, is not only a humongous assassin of the open ocean, but also exists in a pocket size version big enough to eat only small fish and invertebrates.  A diminutive denizen of the Gulf of Mexico is about five inches long, and researchers say it may glow in the dark!  Mollisquama mississippiensis, or the American pocket shark, was recently described for science and named after the biologically rich Mississippi Basin region it inhabits.  It was caught in 2010.  Only one other species of miniature shark, M. parini, captured from the ocean was caught in the Pacific in 1979.  Sharks are ancient species that have changed little over eons.  Their obvious diversification to inhabit various ecological niches is testament to their evolutionary success story.  Pocket sharks are extremely rare and are named so because of gland openings found behind each pectoral fin.

The new discovery, made by researchers from NOAA while searching the eastern Gulf to determine what sperm whales eat, is published in Zootaxa.  Mississippiensis has photophores, luminescent organs, covering its body.  Scientists believe this may help the fish luminescent in the darkness of the deep ocean.  Science knows very little about the much exploited Gulf of Mexico and the newly described miniature shark is an example of what more unknown unknowns still exist in its depths.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

COTW: Opiods, USA

The map shows the loci of the opiod epidemic.  It is concentrated in the Applachian region, Las Vegas and northern California.  A recent government study, suppressed by the DEA but released after a lawsuit, shows that pharmaceutical companies continued to flood vulnerable communities with pills even after it was known that the powerful and highly addictive pain killers were hitting the streets.  The DEA's ARCOS database tracks the movement of every prescription pill from factory to pharmacy.  A retired DEA official says now a consultant to plaintiffs bringing suit against drug makers, "We’re seeing a lot of internal stuff that basically confirms what we already knew. It just reinforces the fact that it was all about greed, and all about money.” The industry lays the blame for abuse of their product on doctors, and the DEA which its says has the authority to ban the overuse of prescription medications.

Six companies distributed 75% of the opiods hydrocodone and oxycodone and just three companies manufactured 88% of them.  The industry shipped 76 billion pills during 2006-2012, spiking at 12.6 billion.  The industry is supposed to self-regulate, but plaintiffs claim that sales personnel were given key roles in compliance issues.  Bonuses for sales of opiods could reach six figures.  Public ire at the role of pharmaceutical companies in the epidemic has previously centered on Purdue Pharma which released it's OxyCotin brand of oxycodone in 1996.  That drug was marketed as a less addictive form of pain killer because the slow release formulation  did produce a high.  Experts trace the beginning of the epidemic to the drug's release and migration into illegal drug trafficking.  But the new data shows that the problem is industry wide and not just one company.  Purdue's sales represent only 3% of the market.  Major distributors are household names: Walgreens, CVA and Walmart.

Prescription opioid overdoses have claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in the United States since 1996.  There is a legitimate need for powerful pain-killers, since some unfortunates suffer from chronic, severe pain and nothing else will give them relief.  The fact is these pharmaceuticals are chemically related to street heroin, and have the same addictive properties. Deaths from fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that is being illicitly manufactured abroad and smuggled into the United States, continue to increase.

The accountability question is now being played out in the courtroom.  A federal judge in Cleveland is presiding over 2,000 cases filed by counties against drug companies for the costs of dealing with the abuse epidemic. Two test cases are set to begin this fall. The DEA issued compliance letters in 2005, 2006 warning companies to work harder to prevent their pills from reaching the black market.  The warnings went unheeded as the illicit supply continued to grow.  A few successful regulatory enforcement cases were brought, but the fines were trivial compared to the profits being made.  In one example, McKesson, a distributor, was fined a record $150 million in 2017.  That year the company's net income was $5 billion. God bless the almighty dollar.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

'Toontime: Disloyal Bully

Update: Robert Mueller just finished seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. US Person's takeaway: the gravity of Il Douce's crime¹ of coordinating with foreign espionage agents attempting to influence a federal election was laid bare. Mueller intended for Congress to decide whether he should be arraigned, i.e. impeached, leaving that decision to the proper constitutional authority--the House of Representatives. Impeachment inquiry, now!  If NOT, then his criminality will become the new normal, and he would do it again.

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

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

Is Don Veto more disloyal than this man? Discuss.
1. Acknowledged as such by Robert Mueller in response to a closing question from the House Intelligence Chairman, Adam Schiff.

² 52 U.S.C. Section 30121 (a)(2) prohibits contributions or donations from foreign nationals, including "in-kind" contributions,   "made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party committee or its agents."  Proof of a conspiracy therefore need not be present to commit a federal election law crime. The FEC Commissioner had to resort to Twitter to remind everyone that accepting contributions, including in-kind contributions, from foreign agents is illegal after Don Veto signaled he would still be interested in derogatory information from a foreign government seeking to influence a federal election.  When asked if he would report such activity to the FBI, he responded by saying he has 'never in his life contacted the FBI'--this, from a businessman that has cut deals with the mob and red lined minorities from his housing projects.  The Trump campaign did more than coordinate with the Russian agitprop operation. As noted by Mueller, his campaign "welcomed" the help it was getting from Russian espionage.  According to the the report, “the social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government."  One of these contracts was through campaign manager Paul Manafort, who materially aided Russian agents by providing confidential polling information to Konstantin Kiliminick, a known Russian operative.  This data could have included demographic analysis by Cambridge Analytics, a company owned by Repugnant mega donor, Robert Mercer.  This information could have allowed agents to target their on line agitprop to susceptible voters in swing states, crucial to winning the Electoral College vote.  Mueller's two year investigation never determined what happened to this proprietary polling data shared with the Russians.  Nevertheless, Muelller's investigation did pose a serious enough threat to Il Douche, that he launched a brazen subversion of it. Clearly there are more facts to be uncovered, which might lead to establishing a criminal conspiracy, or at least more evidence of intentional coordination with foreign agents, which is illegal under federal election law.

The New York Times issued 19 questions it thinks Mueller should be asked. #17:Do you believe you got to the bottom of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with WikiLeaks on releasing the emails that Russia stole from Democrats?  Would such interactions have been legal? Ethical?  US Person thinks that answer is a resounding, NO, but he is a commie radical who hates 'Merica according to Il Douche, so never mind!

Friday, July 19, 2019

F-35 Is a Flying Lemon

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

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

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Operation Thunderball

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

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

COTW: The Chart That Explains Washington

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

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

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

Monday, July 15, 2019

What We Don't Need: the Electoral College

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 12, 2019

COTW: A House Divided....

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Luangwa Still Flows Free

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

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

COTW: Debt Peonage in the Land of the Free

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


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

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Heavenly Gold Rush

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

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

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

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Creature Feature: Covered Parking for Red Shouldered Hawk

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

"Toontime: Twisted History

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

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

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

Friday, July 05, 2019

Baked Alaska on the 4th!

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

COTW: 'Pet Rock' Wins Again

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Six More Right Whales Die

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

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

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

Monday, July 01, 2019

Belize Agrees to Protect Wildlife Corridor

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

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