Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Police Beat: No Dancing in Public!

A scene at the Jefferson Memorial where a blogger and friends are forcefully arrested for a public display of affection and dancing:

A court case in 2008 ruled that dancing, even in silence with headphones, was inappropriate behavior at the Jefferson Memorial.  Whether the arrests in this video involve excessive force is something the Park Service says it is reviewing.  One of the men arrested is a veteran.

Monday, May 30, 2011

TEPCo Admits Multiple Meltdowns

The wave approaches the plant's sea barrier
--the wave destroys barrier.
Further: Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced on Monday that her country will close all of Germany's nuclear power plants by 2022. Germany becomes the largest technologically advanced nation to renounce the use of fission to generate electricity. Plans for future power call for a doubling of renewable energy sources to 35% and a 10% reduction in consumption. About a quarter of Germany's energy needs are supplied by atomic power. The government is also investing in technologies to burn coal with less carbon emissions. France, which relies heavily on nuclear power, called the decision "purely political". Germany has an active and politically powerful green movement. The Fukushima disaster triggered mass protests across Germany. 56% of Germans oppose nuclear power.

More: The news from Fukushima is not getting better, unfortunately, but that is the reality of the worst nuclear power accident in history. TEPCo confirms there are numerous holes in the containment of Unit 2 which will allow more radioactive fallout to enter the atmosphere. Of course, the nuclear industry maintained for years nuclear containments are nearly impervious. Fukushima will prove them wrong again. The Unit 4 reactor building is tilting and possibly sinking. Three explosions and tons of cooling water have weakened the structure and undermined some of the building's foundations. There will be deaths from radioactive exposure among the workers trying to bring the doomed plant under control. A Tokyo University radiology professor said, "this is like suicide fighters in a war". At Chernobyl, the Soviet government sent in 800,000 draftees as "liquidators". Many are suffering from exposure symptoms and there is an escalating death toll. Similarly, a cadre of workers sacrificed themselves in the early stages of the disaster at Fukushima. Japan has raised the allowable exposure for workers from 100mSv/hr to 250 or five times what is allowed for US workers. Soil samples from a wide area show contamination of Cesium 137 above those found at Chernobyl that resulted in compulsory evacuations. 60 tons of highly contaminated waste water has leaked out from makeshift storage tanks and leakage apparently is continuing. Greenpeace is testing marine life 12 miles from the plant site and is finding seaweed with contamination levels 60 times the legal limit. As if conditions at the plant site were not bad enough, Typhoon "Songda" is approaching the northeastern coast of Japan. Hurricane force winds may be strong enough to topple a structurally compromised reactor building.

{25.5.11}What nuclear experts and activists knew weeks ago and reported here {"meltdown"}, the Japanese power company that owns the ruined Fukushima-Daiichi plant is only now, 10 weeks after the event, saying publicly that three of the four damaged reactors are melting down. Extremely radioactive slag has formed and is melting its way through containment in a 'China Syndrome' scenario. The sad fact is that a swath of northeastern Japan is now an uninhabitable zone of national sacrifice similar to the area around Chernobyl. The area's evacuees will not be going home, ever. A sadder fact is that the meltdown in Unit #1 started before the thirty foot tsunami hit the plant, exacerbating an already dangerous loss of coolant event. This revelation may require recalculating the time needed for a power reactor to begin melting after loss of coolant. There is a report that radiation warnings went off less than an hour after the earthquake. The saddest fact of all is that the multiple meltdown disaster is worse than Chernobyl because the impact of Fukushima radiation on the world's oceans is ten times larger than the meltdown of one reactor in the Ukraine according to the respected Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The company's president Masataka Shimizu, has resigned in the wake of a $15 billion loss before compensation is paid to disaster victims. TEPCo released these pictures of the tsunami wave on its path of destruction.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists and former instructor for boiling water technology at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told a congressional committee in March that in June 1998, a tornado disabled the power supply to the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio. High air temperatures above 90℉ caused the back up supply to also fail. However, unlike the Daiichi scenario, workers at the US plant were able to restore grid power an hour before the backup supply failed. He told Congress US reactors are not immune from a loss of coolant event sufficiently severe to cause a meltdown. A station blackout constitutes the highest source of risk to plants located away from coasts and faults. He also recommended spent fuel over five years old be stored in dry casks where natural ventilation can cool the rods sufficiently. Spent fuel pools in the US are reaching capacity.

More:  Switzerland's government announced its recommendation to parliament that the country's five aging nuclear power plants not be replaced but phased out by 2034. The first plant to be shut would be Beznau I in 2019. The federal council called on the entire nation to set the world an example by meeting their energy needs from renewable energy sources while asking industry to cut consumption. The effect on the nation's GDP according to calculation would be less than one percent. One percent to save Earth from a hellish future? Sounds good to US Person! Closer to home, the citizens of Pueblo, Colorado convinced their county commissioners to reject a plan for a nuclear power plant put forward by a local lawyer who describes himself as a "visionary". Five hundred citizens packed the ordinarily staid hearing room on March 16th to voice their objections to rezoning land in the county to allow the construction of a nuclear power station. One voter asked the three commissioners to "bury this thing as deep as you can." Both scarce water and the effect of radioactive leaks on agriculture were central issues in the relatively short-lived debate.

Chart of the Week: "Downhill Since Nixon"

US Person's 2004 campaign speech at the longshormen's union hall had this social condition as its theme:
The chart shows since Nixon's second term of office the real wage of working Americans has dropped in value steadily.  The trend is more accurately shown by the blue line which is deflation before the official CPI statistics were altered in 1980 to produce the relatively flat red line showing less alarming dollar deflation.
This chart shows the equally clear correlation between general price inflation as reflected by the consumer price index and the development of central bank fiat money in the United States.  The deflation of the currency has had far reaching social effects, one being the widespread development of the two worker family income, and another the relative enrichment of the rentier class at the expense of labor.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekend Edition: Vermont First to Pass Single Payer

One of the laudable features of the insurance industry kluge now known as 'Obamacare' is that it allows states to experiment with different forms of health care insurance. US Person predicts that several states, perhaps even a majority, will end up with some form of single-payer health care plan since they will come to the realization it is the most efficient way to control costs as well as meet their ethical obligation to protect residents' health. Health care costs in Vermont have been rising between 6.5 and 8.5% recently. It became the first state in the nation to pass single-payer legislation. Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, signed H202 on Friday. Called "Green Mountain Care" the plan reforms Vermont's entire health care system by regulating health insurance premiums and payments under a state appointed board, but the plan will require a waiver from the federal government's health benefits exchange system established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Also, the state's single-payer plan does not come into full effect until 2017 and is subject to further voter approval of a financing plan. However, Green Mountain Care, unlike Obamacare, provides universal coverage for Vermont's 650,000 residents and is expected to save an estimated $580 million annually.

Weekend Edition: Through a Glass Cracked

Update:  The US Humane Society had to file suit against the federal government again to protect sea lions feeding in the Columbia River, but this time the parties reached an agreement to suspend lethal removal. Only one sea lion was killed this year according to NOAA. Plans were approved to kill as many as 85 sea lions after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the previous year authorization for lethal removal. The suspension agreement lasts until September 1st.

{15.5.11} Is it just US Person's perception? Or is the reality seen in the local fishwrap a vision seen through a cracked glass? With a tone of pride the paper announces the state has again received permission to kill sea lions just trying to survive by eating salmon below Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Then, in another section, the newspaper reports the Bonneville Power Administration will pull the plug on wind power producers because of excess hydropower generated during the spring run off. Only 50 sea lions were seen below the dam this year, yet under pressure from fishing interests, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a decision resuming the lethal removal of sea lions feeding on salmon. The Ninth Circuit ordered a stop to removal until the agency explained how fishermen can take 17% of endangered salmon runs, but sea lions pursuing their natural prey can take effectively none if humans can help it. {"sea lions"} Of course in response to the appeals court's logic, the agency hired some biology contractors to produce statistics showing the pinnipeds take almost as much fish as humans. The Humane Society of the United States is considering another appeal, and the seals deserve it.

Does it make any sense to increase salmon populations by removing dams no longer need or allowing more spill as wind power and other renewable sources ramp up energy production? It is undisputed that dam turbines kill thousands of young salmon every year on the return runs to the ocean. Multiple dams block breeding salmon on the way back. Sockeyes have it the worst of all salmon species. They have been dammed out of one third of their breeding habitat in high desert creeks by dams on the lower Snake River where there is no way around. Dams are incredibly difficult obstacles to overcome even when man allows it. That is why salmon pool below them to muster the strength and nerve to enter the made-made labyrinths of death. Sea lions are not the cause of fewer salmon; man's extreme alteration of the land is the cause. But only man can affix blame for his poor stewardship on other creatures.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Iraqis Tell Americans to Go Home

credit: Reuters
Supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtadar al-Sadr rallied in the thousands to send a message to the remaining American forces in Iraq: do not stay beyond the established withdrawal date.  The march of thousands in northeastern Baghdad's Sadr City showed the depth of the support for Muqtada's insistence on an end to US occupation despite the desires of Obama & Folks, Inc. and the Pentagon to keep some US forces stationed in Iraq.  Clearly the rally which featured young men marching in military precision as well as clerics and women dressed in burkhas was meant to show that Sadrists are willing to renew armed resistance. Some participants told an Al Jazeera reporter that they had left their rifles at home, but were willing to take up arms against the American occupiers at the moment their leader orders.  The Mahdi Army fought the US backed central government and US troops to a negotiated settlement in a civil war that engulfed the nation during the occupation which has lasted eight years since the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power.  Iraqi President Nuri al-Maliki has called for a "national dialogue" on the issue of inviting United States forces to remain beyond the agreed date in the status of forces agreement for complete withdrawal.  Forty-five thousand US troops remain in a training and logistics role.  US officials are aware of the unpopularity of US forces still in Iraq, nevertheless a US general in command called the Mahdi army an "illegal militia".

'Toontime: The Triangulation Two Step

Brought to you by that ace terpsichorean:

[credit: Joel Pett, Lexington Hearld-Leader]
Wackydoodle sez, "He got natchurl rhythm too!"
Our modern day pharaoh is nowhere near the devastated town of Joplin, MO where residents dig into the rubble of their homes and businesses looking for survivors and precious possessions. At least one hundred twenty five Americans lost their lives to a monster F5 tornado (officially described as "incredible") that racked the city of 50,000 on Sunday. Two hundred thirty-two are listed as missing. It was the eighth deadliest tornado on record in an age of doppler radar and televised warnings. No one expects Obamatron to pick up a shovel, but his beleaguered countrymen must be gritting their teeth while he is feted by a monarchy their ancestors died to overcome. Remember the Charlatan and his recalcitrant visit to a hurricane devastated New Orleans? Deja vu is in the house.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

America's Bats are Dying

Update: US Fish & Wildlife has come up with a national plan to combat the deadly fungus Geomyces destructans that has killed over a million North American bats since 2006. The fungus was described in 2008 by Blehart et al and identified as a unique species in 2009 by Gargas et al. The Service says the plan provides a coordinated response for investigating the syndrome and finding a means to prevent spread of the disease. Until an exact disease mechanism is understood by science, quarantine of infected colonies, and restrictions on human disturbance of at risk hibernaria seems warranted. Over $10.8 million has been invested by the Department of Interior to find ways to control or cure the disease.

More: {27/4/11} Kentucky is the 16th state to report the presence of the killer fungus decease infecting America's bats. A little brown bat from a Trigg County cave tested positive for the "white nose syndrome". The privately owned cave is a hibernaculum for six species, including the endangered Indiana bat, numbering about 2,000. Sixty very sick bats not expected to survive were removed from the cave and euthanized by wildlife authorities. Mortality rates are approaching 100% in caves that have multi-year infections. The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife has promised to protect bats in the vicinity from infection. No other nearby caves were found to be infected, so far. Bats are a tremendously beneficial species to man, acting as both insectivores and pollinators.

{7.4.11}This tragic story has not received the attention it deserves because bats are up there with bees when their contribution to human agriculture is considered. Bats in the US are dying in the millions from a mysterious fungal disease named "white nose syndrome". More study of the disease is justified solely from an economic standpoint. Bats eat tons of harmful insects every year that would otherwise damage human crops. A paper in the peer journal, Science, estimates the value of their services to agriculture may be around $22.9 billion a year. The disease has spread across the northeast and into Canada, wiping out entire colonies. The little brown myotis bat (Myotis lucifugus) is threatened with regional extinction by the pathogen. The Center for Biological Diversity has warned that unless action is taken now, the disease will spread across the country. Cave and abandoned mine closures are called for to prevent the human transmission of the fungus to healthy colonies of bats. Research has shown that the fungus lives in subterranean soils and can be transmitted on clothing and gear to new sites. Evidence points to a European source of the disease where the fungus has been identified but does not affect bats. The US Fish & Wildlife Service said the white nose epidemic is the worst wildlife health crisis in memory, and the agency is not prone to hyperbole. In December 2009 the agency completed a report recommending closures of caves and mines where infected bats are hibernating. In some hibernacula 90-100% of the bats are dying.

The disease was first noticed in 2006 in nesting caves near Albany, New York. Two years ago the disease was estimated to have killed more than a million bats. Now, it has spread to six different species and last spring the fungus was detected on a bat found in western Oklahoma. Public lands with subterranean sites are largely open to unrestricted entry in the American west. The Bureau of Land Management has no current plans to restrict cave access, but the passive wait and see approach is clearly inadequate if America's beneficial bats are not to go the way of the Tasmanian Devil.

Endangered Species Settlement Stayed

A federal district judge in Washington has stayed the implementation of a settlement agreement between a conservation group, Wild Earth Guardians, and the government over the failure to issue final decisions for 251 species stuck on a pending list for decades. However, the Center for Biological Diversity headquartered in Tucson, AZ asked the judge to stay the agreement because in their opinion it is too weak and ultimately unenforceable. The Center is concerned that under the agreement the US Fish & Wildlife Service could unilaterally withdraw its commitment to list a species, exclude some imperiled species from protection, and limit the protection given to other species in the future. 87% of the petitions to list were filed or litigated by the Center so it argued their approval of the agreement was necessary. Wild Earth Guardians has filed the most petitions to list in the last four years. In return for final decisions on the species in legal limbo by 2016 the Guardians agreed to limit its litigation and refrain from suing the Department of Interior for the next six years. The judge stayed approval of the agreement and ordered further mediation until June 20th.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

War Powers Act: Is it or Isn't It?

AH-64D, Apache Longbow
Update:  Congress has belatedly decided to do its constitutional duty under the War Powers Act and authorize the use of the US military to fight the Libyan civil war against its least favorite Middle East despot, Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi.  Senators Kerry and McCain, both Vietnam veterans, formally introduced the resolution which does not refer to the law on Monday, but Senate Majority Leader Reid said a vote will not come until after the Senate's Memorial Day recess. Obamatron expressed his willingness to accept bi-partisan recognition of his near god-like power of life or death anywhere in the world after the expiration of the Act's sixty day deadline. Yesterday, NATO again conducted nighttime air raids on the center of Tripoli.  The apparent targets are Qaddafi's compound in the Bab al-Aziziya district and the Tripoli television center which is located in the densely populated city center.  According to one foreign doctor working in the city, there are four schools located next to the TV center and about 250 meters away is the children's hospital of al-Jala.  There have been civilian casualties as the result of the more than 2500 NATO air attacks.  Britain and France have announced they intend to use attack helicopters [photo] in tactical support of rebel troops, further escalating the conflict's intensity far beyond the original UN mandate of aerial interdiction to prevent mass civilian casualties.

{20.5.11}One of the major reasons Washington keeps replaying the same old wartime tunes, is that it never gets its mojo right in the first place. Let US Person explain. The War Powers Act was passed by both houses of Congress in 1973. The United States was withdrawing from the morass of Vietnam pursuant to Tricky Dick's 'secret plan' to end the war. The Paris Peace accord negotiated by Henry Kissinger was signed in January, but the end of the fighting was still two years away. The bill was passed by both houses in July of 1973, but Nixon vetoed it. In November 1973 the President's veto was overridden and the bill became law. The question of the Act's constitutionality continues to be debated to this day, and several presidents of both parties have ignored its applicability to the commitment of federal troops to various military actions around the globe. Two primary constitutional objections exist: the Act violates the separation of powers doctrine, and/or the Act violates the presentment clause by establishing an impermissible "legislative veto". Details of the reasoning involved are just a click away, so US Person will hasten to the point of this post.

Despite the constitutional debate the War Powers Act is the law of the land, and deserves Presidential compliance until and unless there is a successful constitutional challenge in the US Supreme Court. That is how the American system is supposed to work, but our politicians seem to think that compliance is optional if they think a law stinks. Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) attitude is typical, "I have never recognized the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, nor has any president, Republican or Democrat." Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee told reporters a resolution pursuant to the law was more trouble than it was worth. But the argument that the power to appropriate funds for a conflict is sufficient control over executive abuse is disingenuous since no senator has the considerable bravado to vote against funding once troops are in the field. In fact, Congress is shirking its duty to help delineate the extent of a law on a fundamental issue both houses deemed important enough to pass over a presidential veto during a war. Undeclared conflicts have proliferated since the Korean "police action", and the extent of Congressional authority for war making is distressingly and expensively vague beyond the appropriation process. If a war is worth fighting in the government's collective opinion they ought to be willing to say so in writing. That is what Richard Lugar (R-IN) thinks and several other senators agree with him. Let Obamacon declare the law invalid if he thinks it is unconstitutional, or follow the law's parameters in our involvement in Libya. Allowing him to sleep walk pass the issue of war is just more of the deceitful enabling for which Washington is justly famous.

Chart of the Week: Record Low Housing Starts

For a FIRE economy that is more bad news.  Sales of new homes for April of 32,000 also tied a record low:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Only Pinkos Need Civil Rights?

From the terror symp department comes the news that Congress is preparing to vote to extend controversial provisions of the so-called Patriot Act that allow domestic spying on suspected plotters and just plain disgruntled solitaries alike until 2015. This latest symptom of never ending state paranoia comes after American special forces finally caught up with the main man in Pakistan. Whether it is the power to wage war or the curtailment of individual privacy, the US Constitution is rapidly becoming dead letter as both sides of the political seesaw in Washington cut a backroom deal to bring up the extension bill without any amendments that might hinder passage. Current provisions expire on May 27th. Obamatron & Folks, Inc. has been pushing for months to extend on a long term basis these controversial spying provisions:
1.) The power to obtain secret court orders for "any tangible thing"—including Internet, phone, and business records—that the government believes is relevant to a terrorism investigation;
2.) The power to use non-specific "roving" wiretaps to monitor any phone number, email account, or other communications facility that the government believes is being used by its target;
3.) The power to wiretap a "lone wolf" or monitor individuals who have no connection to any foreign power or terrorist group.
Worst of all, the collusive deal short circuits attempts at modest accountability legislation sponsored by the Judiciary Committee chair, Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Obamatron apparently feels free from the demands of his progressive voter base to end the secrecy and security state now that he has secured his reelection with the killing of Osama Bin Laden. One notable Hollywood celebrity and easy rider went so far as to call him a "traitor" to the progressive cause. US Person would never say that over the telephone! But you can still call your Senator and ask him or her to vote against slowly destroying the Bill of Rights.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Edition: Greater Israel

This is the answer America receives in return for half a century of financial aid* to the state of Israel: We will never go back! Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made crystal clear Israel never intends to give up the territory it conquered in the 1967 war Specifically it will never agree to give up the West Bank and East Jerusalem areas that it is colonizing as fast as it can build settlements under cover of a sham peace negotiation with the Palestinians. Israel recently gave approval for 1500 new buildings for settlers in the occupied West Bank. About 500,000 Israelis live on occupied territory that have become suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In 2001 a more liberal Israeli government tentatively agreed to return some occupied land while retaining 80% of its settlements outside the 1949 armistice line.  Israel has drifted steadily to the right since then.  Netanyahu accused Obama of suffering from "illusions" during his visit, and US Person agrees. But the only illusion is that the United States has any remaining influence over its client. The time for ending aid to Israel has come. If its leaders what to go it alone, American leaders should take our money off the table and wish them luck. Obama was out maneuvered by the clever Jewish Prime Minister who received good press at home stating the obvious. If an Arab-Israeli peace is ever achieved it will be because Israel needs America more than America needs a Jewish ally in the Middle East.

*an estimate by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs puts the total of aid, economic and military, at $114 billion.

Creature Feature: Hope Lives!

The international "Year of the Tiger" ended in February, but this video from WWF is worth a view because it reminds us that tigers in the wild are not lost forever. It only takes the human commitment to preserve, connect, and safeguard the remaining tiger habitat:

Friday, May 20, 2011

'Toontime: Fine Print?; Who Needs Fine Print?

[credit: Steve Kelly, New Orleans Times-Picayune]

Fifty states attorney generals as well as the federal government are investigating the allegations of widespread foreclosure fraud being practiced by banks as they scramble to unwind the burst real estate bubble. The evidence of extensive and abusive practices is mounting at the United States Trustee Program, part of the US Justice Department. The mistakes and outright fraud committed by banks in the foreclosure process fall into two broad categories: the inaccurate statement of amounts borrowers owe and the charging of improper fees. Federal audits by the Department of Housing and Urban Development completed by March 2011 say the claims of the five largest mortgage companies violate the False Claims Act. HUD referred its charges to the Department of Justice.

Despite all the fraud evidence, conservative attorney generals are balking at on-going settlement negotiations, objecting to monetary fines and the use of the penalties to reduce loan amounts. Banks have offered a $5 billion settlement while the AGs have suggested $20 billion, a figure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureaus says the industry saved by taking impermissible foreclosure short cuts. Southern conservatives have called the plan to use penalties for homeowner foreclosure relief "welfare" and a "regulatory shakedown". Apparently welfare is only permitted by right wingers if the recipients are multinational corporations making billions in annual profits.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BP Cash Makes The Difference

Impotent Senate Democrats failed to end almost a century of different tax subsidies for the oil industry. On a 52-48 vote Tuesday the Senate failed to end the subsidies worth $21 billion over ten years. Three Democrats from oil producing states joined the Repugnant Party voting against the measure. It was opposed by the usual suspects, including the Chamber of Commerce which continues to push the worn out propaganda that subsidizing a mature capitalist industry which made nearly $1 trillion in profits for the last decade is still necessary to preserve jobs. Even Rush Limbaugh does not believe that canard! Gas is currently selling in the US for $4 a gallon, the second highest price in modern times. (2008: $4.25/gal. inflation adjusted)

On another front in the class war, Florida has reduced the standards for beach restoration as millions flow into the state from British Petroleum as compensation for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Pensacola Beach was one of the first Florida beaches to be impacted by the 5 billion barrel oil spill. A state official made beach restoration "presumptively approved regardless of consequences". Environmentalists say such "marching orders" are dysfunctional because beach restoration could exacerbate environmental damage as well ameliorate it under some circumstances. For example, the state directive does not allow officials to prohibit toxic materials or construction debris from being deposited onto artificially reinforced beaches to prevent erosion or review planting plans to determine potential impact on a beach and dune ecosystem. BP has shelled out $100 million in compensation to Florida. Blobs of oil and tar balls are still washing up on Gulf Coast beaches that draw millions of visitors each year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Iceland Suspends Whaling Due to Lack of Sales

The economic weapon is always the most effective, and that has proved true in the case of Iceland's reluctance to give up its whaling legacy. Iceland's annual fin whale hunt will be postponed indefinitely due to lack of a market for whale meat. A reported 2,000 tons is on ice in warehouses. According to reports, the CEO of the Hvalur whaling company told staff members of the suspension this month. Hvalur killed 273 endangered fin whales in the past two years, to produce a product that was admittedly a 'lost leader' in an effort to build a market for the meat in Japan. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society began a consumer campaign to boycott companies selling whale products in 2010. Although it appears to have been effective, the disruption of processing companies in Japan also contributed to the decision to suspend the fin whale hunt. Anti-whaling activists note that Iceland declared the end of commercial whaling once before in 2007 only to come back with a larger hunt in 2009, so consumer vigilance must be maintained. Efforts to get governments to ban whale products also must continue. Germany and Netherlands have passed parliamentary resolutions stating Iceland should not be admitted to the European Union until commercial whaling stops. Killing of smaller Minke whales continues, despite the lack of a market in Iceland. Sixty minke whales were killed last year. The International Fund for Animal Welfare opposes all whaling on humanitarian grounds.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Regulators Dispute Safety of US Nucs

Latest: TEPCo now admits that reactor Unit 1 experienced catastrophic fuel melting as reported here in March.
{"Fukushima"} Unit 1 radiation levels within the reactor building measured 300 mSv/hr within hours of the earthquake indicated fuel melting had already begun. Engineers now think that molten fuel and assemblies slumped to the bottom of the reactor vessel (known as "slag") and melted a hole in the bottom of the containment shield within 16 hours of the event. TEPCo said that it had discovered an Olympic pool sized of highly radioactive water in the basement of Unit 1 over the weekend, the result of pumping cooling water over the reactor for the past three months. Containments of Unit 2 and 3 have also been breached by molten fuel. Robotic monitoring of radiation levels there indicate that is still far too 'hot' for humans to enter either reactor building. These developments mean that TEPCo's plan to bring the reactors to a cold shut down in nine months is unrealistic. Evacuation of contaminated villages beyond the original 20 kilometer exclusion zone finally began over the weekend as the Japanese government and TEPCo reluctantly begin to face the full ramifications of the nuclear disaster on their hands.

More:{6.5.11}The Japanese government has requested the closure of Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant until its owner Chubu Electric Power builds stronger defenses against earthquakes and tsunamis. Hamaoka is located on the coast southwest of Tokoyo in a seismically active area. Government experts put the chance of a 8.0 magnitude trembler at 90% within the next thirty years. Chubu decommissioned the plant's two oldest reactors because of the prohibitive cost of upgrading them to withstand earthquakes. These reactors were built in the 70s as were the Fukushima-Daiichi reactors. The other three reactors were built in the 1980s. The company claims the newer models can withstand major earthquakes. But the Prime Minister said his request was motivated by consideration of the "tremendous repercussions a major accident at Hamakoa would have on the entire Japanese society". A Chubu source told Kyodo news that the company would comply with the request. Yet a third nuclear plant is in trouble in Fukui prefecture. The Tsuruga nuclear plant is leaking radioactivity from fuel rods into the cooling system. The utility said it would shut down the unit manually and examine the cooling system. TEPCo continues to struggle to bring the Fukushima reactors under control, almost two months after a major earthquake and tsunami destroyed four of the six reactors there.

{5.5.11}The Union of Concerned Scientists has released internal documents showing a disagreement among NRC staff about the safety of US nuclear power plants if they were to suffer a catastrophic loss of power of the same magnitude that crippled Fukushima-Daiichi in northern Japan. After the terror attacks of 2001, the NRC realized the vulnerability of US nuclear power installations to sabotage and issued new regulations requiring significant upgrades in security, safety equipment and practices. These procedures are referred to "B.5.b" measures and are not publicly available. Agency officials testified to Congress on March 30th that these measures make US plants safer should a disaster occur like the one at the Fukushima-Daiichi complex. NRC studied the problem of a complete power loss at a GE boiling water Mark I reactor at Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania similar to Fukushima Units 1-4 in a research project named SOARCA (State of the Art Reactor Consequence Analyses). Most experts believe that a loss of grid power and then exhaustion of back-up battery power caused a failure of the cooling systems in Fukushima Units 1-3, allowing the reactors to overheat and melt fuel. An e-mail exchange between NRC staff shows that analysts working directly with the Peach Bottom BWR reactor do not believe the B.5b measures are sufficient to mitigate a severe accident. The relevant measures require equipment to be on site but are untested, and some analysts consider their effectiveness to be "speculative" in "post-event" conditions. The congressional testimony of NRC officials did not reveal these private expressions of doubt.

At Fukushima, technicians are preparing to enter Unit 1 for the first time since the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The goal is to place four air filtering devices that are intended to reduce radiation levels low enough to allow the construction of a stable cooling system for the reactor. At Unit 2, TEPCo is removing the highly radioactive waste water that has collected in the basement of the turbine building and in trenches outside the building. TEPCo also plans to build a dyke around Units 3 & 4 to protect them from another tsunami should it occur following one of the many aftershocks that are taking place.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chart of the Week: Food Stamps Used by 1 in 7 Americans

The chart below published by The Wall Street Journal shows the states with the largest percentage of residents using food stamps. (the more red, the larger number of food stamp users) Embarrassingly, the the west coast state of Oregon joins the deep south and traditionally poorest state, Mississippi, with the largest share of population using food stamps to buy groceries.  In February the last month for which there are statistics, program participants increased by 11.6% over the previous month:

The increasingly wide dichotomy between rich and poor in this country was impressed upon US Person last weekend as he returned from viewing the fascinating documentary by Walter Herzog, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Crossing a Stumptown corner to wait at the streetcar shelter, he admired a Porsche Caymann parked at the curb, and wondered about the owner who could afford the sport car's hefty $70,000 price tag--perhaps a pro soccer player? His attention was soon diverted by a couple wearing blankets over their heads, preparing a place to sleep in a storefront doorway only a few paces away from the parked purple propulsion.  "There is no pity in the city", we are reminded by Mr. Paulson's team adverts.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Refuge for Ice Bears

credit: Yale Environment 360
More:Where in the world is Nuuk? Madame Secretary Clinton probably asked the same question as she heads to the Arctic summit in the capital of Greenland.  The Arctic is a hot diplomatic topic now, excuse the pun, as nations bordering the sea at the top of the world see opportunity in the melting of the ice cap, opening the region to resource exploration and shipping. In the last fifty years, the mean winter temperature has increased more than six degrees Fahrenheit. The United States is operating at a disadvantage since it has not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty which has been ratified by 161 nations. Ratification of the treaty that will govern relations between nations as it concerns the Arctic and its resources has been blocked by several conservative Senators. Ratification would allow international recognition to exclusive fishing and mining rights within 200 miles of the Alaskan coast as well as a 600 mile claim to the seabed beyond the exclusive economic zone. Russia has already made its seafloor claim explicit by planting its flag on the sea floor by submarine. {"The Last Elephant", August 2007} The scramble for the Arctic is on, and the United States is placing its bet on the independence of Greenland from Denmark according to Wikileaks cables on the subject. The region is believed to contain about one-quarter of the world's remaining oil reserves.

However, none of this possible economic exploitation of a region previously too extreme for large scale human activities bodes well for endangered species that make their home in the frigid Arctic waters. The food web at the top of the world is not diverse, and therefore fragile. All arctic mammals are dependent on the microscopic organisms that live underneath the ice cap and feed still abundant fish species like the Arctic cod. The three types of seals, ring, bearded and spotted, that are the prey of polar bears depend on fish and zooplankton to survive. A spill such as the Deepwater Horizon could wipe a large part of the ocean's marine algae and zooplankton which is the base of the Arctic food chain, causing a catastrophic collapse. Climate change is decreasing both ice cover and snow. Seals and polar bears need snow to make dens for birthing and rearing their young. Lack of ice and snow cover do not allow seals to reproduce normally, depriving polar bears of their almost exclusive food source. Starving bears are seen eating unusual foods such as berries, grass, moss, and goose eggs that cannot replace the fat rich seal meat need to withstand extreme Arctic weather. Starving bears do not reproduce. Usually strong swimmers, polar bears have drowned at sea attempting to cross greater areas of open ocean. If man begins to exploit the Arctic fisheries commercially, it could mean a knockout blow for large marine mammals in the Arctic. These are ominous signs of a stressed Arctic ecosystem. These are issues the Secretary of State would be wise to consider on the road to Nuuk.

{13.5.11}The fact of anthropogenic global temperature rise melting Arctic ice is established. By the middle of this century the Arctic Ocean will be mostly ice free in the summer months. That presents a lethal problem for polar bears struggling to adapt to a radically different environment. Without sea ice, polar bears will be cut off from hunting the mainstay of their diet, ringed seals. Conservationists are beginning to think of how polar bears can be saved from extinction. They have noticed that in most projections of melting a band of the oldest ice is pushed up against northern Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago by Arctic Ocean currents and winds where it remains relatively persistent.[green area on map]. Unlike twenty years ago, there is very little old ice (>5yrs) left in the Arctic. Most of it is 1-2 years old and therefore thinner, more subject to movement by wind and currents. This remnant of older ice cover could provide a refuge for ice dependent species like the polar bear, seals, walruses and whales. Arctic researchers have suggested at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union that this entire region of stable ice be made into a frozen "Noah's Ark" that would allow survival of threatened Arctic animals into the late 21st century. From this refuge, species could repopulate the entire Arctic if man succeeds in halting the warming trend in global temperatures and the ice sheet reforms.

stuffed 'grolar'
Based on current projections Arctic sea ice will largely disappear by mid-century and two-thirds of polar bears could disappear. But if mitigation of warming occurs on a large scale, ice sheets could return and with it polar bears could persist into the next century and beyond. A refuge such as the one being suggested would insure the survival of a genetically viable population until more favorable conditions return. Hybridization with southern grizzly bears pushing north is already occurring at undetermined frequency, reversing 200,000 years of speciation. The region's rugged coastline also collects snow which would provide denning sites for mother bears to raise offspring. What is more certain is that in other areas of the Arctic, denuded of ice in the summer, polar bears will not survive. Establishing a refuge for polar bears now in the Northern Canadian Arctic and Greenland is throwing them a life line they most certainly will need if they are to survive our alteration of Earth's climate.

Friday, May 13, 2011

'Toontime: Obamatron's Fog of War

[credit Nate Beeler,Washington DC Examiner]
"Wackydoodle axes: Do that have Qdaffy's name on it?"
The United States appears now fully committed to wining the Libyan civil war as it begins providing financial and material aid to the rebel council in Benghazi. Obama & Folks, Inc. approved $25 million in non-lethal aid in April. The air war has cost $750 million so far. Congress has acquiesced to participation without a formal declaration of war by not insisting that the provisions of the War Powers Resolution of 1973 be complied with. The sixty day limitation on the use of American military without a formal congressional authorization is approaching expiration. The leading conservative in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said publicly the Senate has no plans to consider the issue, but regretted there has "never been the correct focus" in the Senate on the issue of Congress' constitutionally mandated role to declare war against Libya.

The Democratic Chairman of the Committee, Senator John Kerry, seems to think that the imprimatur of NATO exempts this latest use of American Armed Forces abroad from constitutional limitations. Regardless of the label, the fact is the United States is committing acts of war against the Libyan state without a declaration of war, far beyond the scope of a defensive military treaty with western European nations. There is no implementing US statue for the use of American armed forces to enforce provisions of the UN Charter, either. On Tuesday, NATO again struck Col. Qaddafi's "command and control" compound in the capital of Tripoli. These pinpoint attacks are undoubtedly being accomplished with the use of American personnel and weapons.[photo] Either way you slice it, the Libyan intervention is illegal. But if war mongers in the US House have their way, it will not be illegal for long. They have introduced a provision (Section 1034) into the latest 'must pass' Defense Authorization Bill that would give the president unlimited power to wage war anywhere in the world without Congressional approval.

Technical Difficulties

The post of yesterday, concerning the application of the War Powers Joint Resolution to US involvement in the Libyan civil war was wiped out by "maintenance issues" at Google {"War Powers Resolution"}. As most of US Person's readers already know our First Amendment liberties are in the process of being curtailed as the security apparatus struggles to find ways to impose censorship on the only relatively uncensored medium of communication in existence: the Internet. Rather than increase government transparency the current administration is making efforts in court to further restrict the release of information from the government. For example, in the trial of Thomas A. Drake, a security executive accused of leaking documents to the press, Obama & Folks, Inc. has filed a brief with the court saying it has the right to censor even unclassified government information, a position totally unprecedented. It argues that both the Classified Information Procedures Act and the National Security Agency Act of 1959 allow courts to redact unclassified information in the context of a criminal case. You do not have to be a "pinko terrorist symph" to be concerned, even frightened, by the federal government's increasing tendencies toward secrecy, domestic espionage, curtailment of civil liberties, and even assassination* as a legitimate tool of national policy. Apologies to readers of this humble blog for the "technical difficulties".

*an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki is a radical Muslim cleric believed to be in Yemen. He was added to the CIA's 'kill list'. The Pentagon confirmed it attempted to kill him with a drone attack on May 5th. The previous policy of no political assassinations instituted by President Gerald Ford in Executive Order 11905 is now a dead letter. There has not been such a concerted effort to kill enemy leadership cadre since the infamous "Phoenix Program" of the Vietnam War.  The Executive Order 11905 issued by Ford was in part a reaction to the revelation of CIA programs to terminate leftist foreign political leaders with "extreme prejudice" Thanks for the smear Alex!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chart of the Week: House Prices Still Declining

The main repository of middle-class wealth is the family home.  The latest indexes show a decline in house prices for the eighth straight month.  The chart below shows the most followed Case-Schiller Index and the CoreLogic report used by the Federal Reserve:
Of course this continued price declines means more mortgages are underwater (indebtedness exceeds market value)-- a whopping 28% on average:
[charts: Calculated Risk.com]
The number of delinquent mortgages is falling but as this chart shows, foreclosures are still rising:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

So Why Are We Not Bombing Syria?

The Lybian "intervention" seems well on its way to a full scale war complete with NATO ground troops invading the country now that Libyan separatists have promised to honor all contracts with western concerns (read: oil leases and production agreements).  In the meantime the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his security forces have killed 500 or more protesters during the 50 day uprising.  About 80 soldiers have been killed. Protests have not spread to the largest cities, Damascus or Aleppo, where a tight-knit elite is prepared for a protracted struggle to preserve the ruling family's power.  They have portrayed the struggle to western media as "us or chaos", while intimating that Syrian stability very much is in the security interests its neighbor, Israel.  Assad's government is superficially secular and has created some prosperity based on Arab nationalism (Baathist), but it is far from a democracy.  Syrian security forces maintained a tight control over civil society until now. National policy is formulated by a ruling elite composed of the Bashar family and a circle of business friends with the final say on matters resting with President Assad.  The opposition is made up of young activists who have been supported by American financial aid for the past five years, but there is no readily identifiable leadership and they are disorganized.  Syria is much more populated than Libya--22 million versus 6 million, and it is ethnically and religiously diverse.  If a civil war were to break out from the protests, it would be extremely difficult to control or contain much like the Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq during the US occupation.  Moreover, well equipped and trained government forces remain loyal to the forty year old Assad regime, unlike the situation in Libya.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Code Word: "Geronimo"

No game, L to R: Biden, Obama, Clinton, Gates
More: The United Nations special investigator on executions now wants the United States to "disclose supporting facts to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights standards". Of course the US Justice Department rejects any suggestion that the Navy commandos acted inappropriately by not capturing the unarmed terrorist in his bedroom. It is fairly clear after the fact that the May 1st raid was a "kill" operation in which Bin Laden was targeted "with extreme prejudice". Capturing the most wanted man in the world would have posed daunting political, legal, logistical and security problems for Obama & Folks, Inc. given that it has been unable to try in a civilian court Bin Laden's subordinates.  It was much simpler to off the evil emir with good riddance. Next up on your TV channel: Revenge of the Network!

Update: {7.5.11} Alexander Cockburn reporting at Firstpost says the picture at right is phony. US Person has relied on Cockburn's reporting in the past because of his apparent dedication to ferreting out the truth, but Cockburn is no admirer of the Obamatron. Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA said, according to Cockburn's version, the real time video link failed before the SEALs got into the compound. Who to believe, given Obamatron's refusal to publicly confirm the death of OBL with a picture, and the changing details of the raid itself?* After all, releasing a post mortem picture of the wanted man is a practice that has a time honored tradition in this country. (See, Dilinger, Parker & Barrow, the Daltons, the McLaurys, Che Guevara, Uday & Qusay Hussein etc.). Reports are Navy medical technicians cleaned the body of OBL before committing it to the Arabian Sea. Surely, a discreet photograph of the cleaned up body in the Vinson's sick bay could be shown just to keep the historical record strait. Cockburn also says that Obama--whose eyes are also unwavering from the 2012 election--is "burying himself in a volcano of lies" about the raid. The British reporter who lives in the US says, based on information contained in Wikileaks cables, the fortified compound that housed OBL and his family was known to US intelligence since 2005. Uploading of unredacted cables by Wikileaks may have prompted the Obamatron to finally act as his reelection campaign gets underway and before Al Qaeda discovered their icon's location was known to US intelligence. If the picture above is staged, it makes the assembled audience look pretty good at dissimulation (perhaps the Secretary of State is only stifling a yawn). But after all, they are Washington politicians. Apologies to PNG readers IF Cockburn is correct.

*a critical detail subjected to revision is whether an unarmed OBL was shot dead on sight, or shot while attempting to resist capture. The rules of war prohibit the summary execution of a captured combatant. During the raid, the SEALs lost a top secret stealth Blackhawk to overheating. The helicopter had to be blown up by Team Six. In this video from ABC, neighborhood children can be seen collecting pieces of the secret fabric used to obscure radar signals. The stealth helicopter may explain why residents did not hear the approach of the aircraft which is normally loud, and why the Pakistani military did not see the aircraft on radar. There are also indications the US commandos used an electromagnetic pulse device that temporarily disrupted electrical and signals service during the raid. Ordinary Blackhawks have a fully equipped troop capacity of 11. If one was destroyed on the ground logic dictates at least 3 choppers--one apparently a larger Chinook--were used in the raid in order to extract 25 commandos, their bomb sniffing dog, captured intelligence, and the body of OBL.

{5.3.11}A surreal, even gruesome detail has emerged from the continuing media coverage of the US special forces operation to kill Osama Bin Laden: the Obamatron and his advisors watched a live military satellite feed of the terrorist leader's execution in his bedroom, half a world away [photo]. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, can be seen gasping at the moment of death in a photograph of the official audience viewing a monitor. The President's grim intensity and the satisfaction of Secretary of Defense Gates are particularly evident. One of the members of secret SEAL Team Six acting under direct presidential order was wearing a helmet equipped with a mini cam. A SEAL commando shot Bin Laden in the eye as he reportedly tried to resist, and then he was shot again in the chest. The code word, "Geronimo" was spoken to indicate the world's most wanted terrorist was at last a casualty of modern warfare.{"Geronimo}

Friday, May 06, 2011

'Toontime: BP's Gulf Legacy

[Jeff Darkow, Columbia, MO Daily Tribune]
Even 'Sponge Bob' has been eliminated by the toxins unleashed by British Petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico!  Yet Obamatron & Folks, Inc. has allowed the company to resume operations there--another example of how entrenched the oil lobby is in Washington.  The Repugnant controlled House of (Corporate) Representatives prevented an attempt to end $4 billion in government subsidies to the oil industry (some of which have existed for 97 years), and agreed to weaken environmental reviews for new off-shore drilling.  BP settled with the Justice Department on Tuesday for 2006 oil spills in Alaska.  The company was responsible for 5,078 barrels leaking onto the tundra of the North Slope.  BP agreed to pay a total of $85 million composed of a $12 million criminal fine for gross negligence, $8 in other penalties and $60 million to improve the safety of corroding pipelines.  The company did not send inspection "pigs" through the pipes it manages since 1998!  The company also pleaded guilty in 2007 and put on criminal probation.  The settlement, despite its size, is literally is a drop in the barrel for a company that made $7.1 billion in profits for just the first quarter of this year. Hopefully, the Alaska case will set a lower boundary for the legal resolution of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in which an estimated 4.7 billion barrels fouled the Gulf of Mexico.  But slaps on the wrist will not change a company's culture which considers environmental regulations nuisances to be ignored.  British Petroleum must be made an example to other international oil companies they will not soon forget.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Seas Awash in Plastic

credit: UK Independent
Think the North Pacific Gyre trash dump is a legend akin to the Bermuda Triangle or an environmentalist plot intended to deprive you of your Humvee? The picture at left is the content of one juvenile turtle found dead off the cost of Argentina. Young sea turtles mistake plastic for food. The indigestible debris from human civilization causes blockage of the digestive tract and internal lacerations. Once the concentration of ingested plastic debris is large enough, a slow death usually follows. Humans produce about 260 million tons of plastic a year. When non-degradable plastic enters the ocean, it does not degrade but becomes brittle and breaks into smaller pieces.  The Sea Turtle Foundation estimates that 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and 1 million sea birds die from ingesting marine debris.  Even large animals can die from ingested debris.  In 2009 a pygmy sperm whale   washed up on the South Carolina Coast after swallowing a black plastic trash bag.  Her nursing calf died from starvation.

The North Atlantic also has a gyre that collects plastic trash.  It was first identified in 1971, but its existence has yet to make a difference in the design or manufacture of plastic products.  The North Pacific Gyre is larger, about the size of Texas, and contains an estimated 3.5 million items of detritus.  The problem of plastic debris and their effects on ocean life are probably much worse than currently understood according to scientists from the Universities of California and British Columbia studying plastic pollution in the oceans.  Think about that the next time you are sucking on a plastic water bottle, or your local fishwrap tells you the oceanic trash dumps do not exist.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Chart of the Week: The Squeeze Play

Not only are workers taking home a shrinking paycheck due in part to a larger share taken by benefits (primarily healthcare) as the first chart shows, but the dollar they do take home is worth less:
'Obamacare' will not hold down healthcare costs; the people of Massachusetts where a similar scheme is already in place will tell you that. A single payer system or at least a non-profit insurance option would. Naturally those policy choices were eliminated by the insurance lobby and its hired politicians.
It is clear working Americans are not happy with the economy's performance. A Gallup poll says 55% believe we are in a depression or a recession. And the pessimism is growing. The sad fact is there has been no increase in total payroll jobs for a decade. Whether their dissatisfaction will be reflected in the polls against their national leader, who just bagged the biggest bogeyman in the world (Col. Qaddafi is a close second), remains to be seen. A sadder fact is that it is easier to kill dictators and terrorists than create middle class jobs in a global economy that relies on cheap labor markets. Does the middle class economic gloom concern Obamatron? Apparently not. Post Citizens United, ordinary votes may not matter as much as Wall Street cash. Over there in bubble land, things are just hunky-dory because almost everything you can invest low cost money in--commodities, stocks, mortgage bonds--is up.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Wikileaks Founder Says Social Media Aids Intel

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told an RT interviewer that social media like Facebook aids domestic intelligence gathering by creating a searchable database of personal information about users and their on-line friends. The database is accessed by intelligence agencies without legal formality and largely without civilian oversight. Assange characterized social networking as a free, "huge spying machine". It is a technique of intelligence gathering that has its precursor in the techniques of the Gestapo of Nazi Germany where citizens, and even children, were encouraged to inform on other citizens to fulfill their patriotic duty. Similarly, a person hooked up to Facebook or Twitter encourages his or her friends, relatives, and acquaintances to sign up as a way to have 'fun' and make social contacts. The personal information voluntarily provided thereby becomes accessible to electronic spies. Assange also comments on the developments in the Middle East, the Guantanamo gulag, and redaction of Wikileaks cables:

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Boogeyman is Dead

[credit: BBC]
Ten years and thousands of lives later, the United States finally accomplished a goal of the Afghanistan invasion: the elimination or capture of Osama Bin Laden. The leader of Al Qaeda and former CIA collaborator[1] was killed while unarmed during a US raid near Abbottabad, Pakistan where he was known to be hiding early Monday. Bin Laden's location was traced through a trusted courier identified by captives (not subjected to torture, but standard interrogation methods) and pinpointed last summer. It is clear from reports the raid by Navy SEALs was executed without the knowledge or cooperation of the Pakastani government. Relations between the two countries have been strained recently. Secretary of State Clinton all but accused the Pakistani government of harboring Bin Laden[2]. His last city of refuge is not far from the capital of Islamabad, and three army regiments are garrisoned there. The fortified compound he lived in is only several hundred meters away from the boundary of the Pakistan Military Academy.[Google map above] His body was taken to the USS Carl Vinson and buried at sea after DNA analysis was performed to confirm his identity. Bin Laden's elimination raises the question of whether there remains any legitimate reason for US forces to stay in Afghanistan. The Al Qaeda organization, and indeed the entire Middle East, has moved on since the peculiarly successful terror attacks of September 11, 2001; the shocking attacks succeeded through American ineptitude as much as careful planning and suicidal dedication of the jihadists. Bin Laden had become a figurehead, a legend in the minds of jihadists worldwide, but he no longer exclusively controlled the network as he did in the early days. Ayman Al Zwahiri is reputed to be the next emir while Adnan el Shukrijumah is the chief of operations. Bin Laden's allies, the Taliban, still hold sway over a great deal of Afghanistan, and no foreign counterinsurgency short of popular support can dislodge a movement that is close to the hearts of many poor Afghans. The lesson of Vietnam which United States political and military leaders refuse to learn, is that only inhabitants, not putative imperial powers, can resolve civil wars and build nation states.

[1]Besides the aid Islamic "freedom fighters" (mujahadeen) received from the CIA in their struggle against the Soviets, Bin Laden provided important intelligence information about Kuwait to the US during Operation Desert Storm. US intelligence has no direct evidence that Osama Bin Laden participated in planning the attacks on the United States, other than an unauthenticated video released to Al-Jazeera in which he accepted responsibility; however, their is no doubt the organization he founded was responsible.
[2] Pakistan has received $20.7 billion in US aid since the terror attacks of 2001.  It costs the US about $1 million a year to equip and support each of the 140,000 troops in Afghanistan.  There are only about 100 Al Qaeda operatives in the country according to General David Petraeus.  This kind of flagrant, disproportionate expenditure of national wealth is exactly what the masterminds of the terrorist network want to accomplish--the slow bleeding of America until it collapses beneath its own decadence.  During the 2004 campaign for president, Senator John Kerry correctly surmised a war against international terrorism should be "occasionally military" but "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world."  In other words, it should not be a military funding substitute for the Cold War; because like the Soviet Union earlier, America can no longer afford it.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Weekend Edition: Assassination by Other Means

What was billed as a UN intervention to prevent a bloodbath, has developed into a cynical means of decapitating the Libyan state by killing Muammar el-Qaddafi.  NATO has twice before targeted the despot, claiming it was destroying "command and control" installations.   The third strike was close enough to Qaddafi to kill his son Seif, and three grandchildren. Repugnant Senator Lindsey (SC) has cried for blood on American television saying that NATO should "cut the head of the snake off" to avoid a stalemate. Prime Minister Putin, during an official visit to Denmark, expressed his distaste for the allied overstepping of the UN mandate to protect civilians from Libyan government attacks. At a news conference Putin pointedly asked, who gave NATO permission to eliminate Qaddafi? He also said NATO was becoming a belligerent on one side of the conflict. Prime Minister Putin later added Russia would not approve further UN action on Libya unless it leads directly to peace negotiations. Qaddafi has offered to talk with NATO, but his offered was ignored. The western alliance has repeatedly demanded that Qaddafi leave power. NATO ground forces are already operating in Libya according to this report from RT: