Monday, February 29, 2016

Mining Director Fingered for Elephant Poisonings

As if habitat loss and relentless ivory poaching were not enough to destroy Africa's surviving elephants, the adverse effect of government corruption highlighted by Zimbabwe when a mining director was busted for being behind the cyanide poisoning of 300 elephants between 2013 and 2014 in Hwange National Park.  Death by cyanide is horrifically gruesome and painful way for an elephant to meet an unnatural end.  Godfrey Nayakudya was charged with responsibility responsible for the poisonings.  Dilute sodium cyanide is used in mining operations to separate gold from ore.  Four tons of undocumented cyanide was imported from south Africa to How Gold Mine near Bulawayo according to an employee informant.  The chemical was shipped at night across the border without proper documentation.  Some of it was diverted to Hwange where the only mining activity is for coal which does not require the chemical.

In a related development, a US antiques dealer pled guilty to importing elephant tusks from Canada in violation of the Lacy Act.  Ferdinand Krizan faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The tusks he purchased from Canadian auction house, IEGOR Hotel, are worth about $141,000.  The Canadian firm was under investigation by Canadian authorities when Krizan's name surfaced in purchase records.  Krizan once held a permit to trade in ivory--now illegal in the state of New York--but it was expired.  He admitted in court documents he knew his transaction and transportation of the tusks into the US was illegal. Krizan awaits sentencing.  It is illegal trading like this- much of it in the United States, that fuels the demand for ivory and kills 30,000 or more elephants a year.

DNC Vice-Chair Resigns to Support Bernie

Congresswoman and veteran Tulsi Gabbard resigned her position Sunday as a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee so she can support Bernie Sanders in his campaign to win the Democratic nomination.  Gabbard admitted there was tension in the party's establishment over Sanders' insurrectionist campaign including disagreement over the debate schedule that may favor their candidate, Hillary Clinton.  Gabbard also cited her disagreement with the interventionist foreign policy agenda supported by Clinton.  According to author Gail Sheehy, Hillary urged her husband president to bomb Kosovo during the air war against Serbia.  Gabbard said Sanders has the foresight and judgment to keep us out of "these failures that have resulted in chaos in the Middle East and so much loss of life."  Gabbard served in a medical unit during her first deployment overseas.

Friday, February 26, 2016

'Toontime: Donald, the Inevitable

The mathematics of the primary season are in Donald Trump's favor.  It may be too late for an astounded Republican establishment to unseat his coronation without a nasty, counterproductive floor-fight at the convention.  The exit of a clueless Jeb Bush and the ineffectual campaign of junior salesman Marco Rubio has put the party controllers into panic mode.  Trump has an eighty-one delegate lead in a splintered field and is bound to come out of "super Tuesday" with a lot more since he appeals to southern white populists with his bigoted anti-Washington rhetoric.  He is ahead by comfortable  poll margins in all eleven states holding Tuesday primaries.  Even so "the Donald's" candidacy is a god-send for the Democrats; socialist Sanders performs better than Clinton in national polls when paired against the reality-TV star.

credit: Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Wackydoodle sez:  Evil fish, I will strike at thee and send thee back to Hell!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why Flint Has Water Problems

Flint is a like other northern American cities it's size (about 100,000).  So its water quality problems could happen elsewhere in America.  Flint uses a lot of salt in the winter to keep its roads passable during snow and frigid temperatures, about an incredible 135 pounds per person.  All that road salt has to go somewhere; it is flushed by rain and runoff into the rivers and lakes--in this case the Flint River.  What it does there is increase the waters' acidity and therefore its corrosive effect on things like lead pipes.  Flint River water the corrosive index rose from 0.54 to 2.3 after the city switched its water supply from Detroit to the river to save money.

What local and state officials did not do was to comply with federal water quality rules, specifically the Lead and Copper rule passed in 1998 by installing a corrosion control system when they switched water sources.  They did use more chlorine to purify the river water, so together with salt runoff contributions, chloride concentrations soared from 11.4mg/l to 92mg/l.  Unfortunately that condition played havoc with the city's aging lead pipe distribution system.  Twenty-seven thousand children in the city have been exposed to toxic levels (more than 200-1300 times the WHO standards) of lead contamination.  Lead poisoning is particularly damaging to children's developing brain and nervous system.  Despite the clear threat to public health, the MDEQ downplayed the problem, saying the water quality controversy was "near-hysteria".  At one point a state official even lied to investigating EPA official, saying that Flint " optimized corrosion control program".  Propaganda is usually cheaper than action.

Sea Levels Rising Faster than Previous 28 Centuries

Not since the founding of Rome have the globes seas risen faster than they are now according to scientists.  Human carbon emissions are too blame for the increased rate they said in a report this week.  Coastal flooding is expected to become more severe over time. Already some island communities are being cut-off from the mainland during flood events.  The international team of  scientists, who published their findings in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, confirmed that the oceans could rise by as much as 3 or 4 feet by 2100.  That is enough increase to cause problems for major coastal cities like New York and Miami.  Flooding may become so severe thereafter that coastal cities would have to be abandoned.  Deny that, Goonies!

Monday, February 22, 2016

De-listing Proposed for Island Foxes

The Channel Islands off Southern California's coast are home to six subspecies of the island fox.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service, under pressure from conservative critics that it is not removing enough recovered species from the federal list of threatened and endangered wildlife, proposed to remove three fox subspecies from San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands while upgrading the status of Santa Catalina's fox from "endangered" to "threatened". The current administration has de-listed more species from the Act due to official recovery than any previous administration. The latest de-listing proposal is justified says the agency because the foxes have made "the fastest recovery for any [listed] animal in the United States."  In the nineties four of the subspecies suffered catastrophic population declines due mostly to golden eagle predation.  By 2000 only 15 remained on San Miguel and Santa Rosa island leading to their listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2004. 

The US Park Service, United States Navy, and Nature Conservancy launched a recovery program for the foxes in which feral pigs were removed, resident but non-native golden eagles replaced with fish-eating bald eagles, vaccinated them against distemper, and bred foxes in captivity for re-release on the islands.  Not surprisingly, the intensive management worked.  Now the foxes enjoy an 85% survival rate with more than 4000 foxes alive in 2011.  However, Santa Catalina foxes remain at risk from canine distemper introduced by dogs and raccoons.  The island populations will be monitored for their continued success.  The agency is accepting public comments of their proposal until April 18th. (FWS–R8–ES–2015–0170)

The Democrats' State of Play

Hillary pulled off a narrow victory against Bernie Sanders after leading in Nevada by double digits.  Once again the black bloc voted overwhelmingly for Ms. Clinton.  A bright spot for Sanders is that he polled a majority of Latino voters.  After three primaries the two candidates are tied for pledged delegates to the convention: 51 each.

But that unexpected situation does not tell the whole story.  Clinton has a large advantage in money since she is funded by Super Pacs not subject to limitations under Citizens' United (Mourning Nino?  Not so much!)  As the process wears on, money plays a crucial role in buying advertising intended to lure undecided voters.  The Sanders campaign has got to find a way to connect with minority voters.  It got off to a bad start when the candidate walked off the stage at a rally commandeered by a black activist group (Hillary supporters?).

That is not the only card the former Secretary of State has to play.  The Democratic Party establishment made up of big donors like George Soros, and elected Democratic officials and former officials are solidly behind Madam Secretary.  Superdelegates hold the balance of power in a convention deadlocked by elected delegates; this is an intended circumstance in a political party free to make its own rules of procedure and fearful of a runaway convention in which a presumed unelectable candidate is chosen in a moment of democratic excess.  US Person thinks this influential support that controls the party's superdelegates may go beyond the Beltway, across the river and into the Pentagon and Langley, the so-called "deep state".  The timing of a US air raid against ISIS-Libya was just about perfect in order to influence a tight race in Nevada.

Socialist Sanders is viewed as suspect by professional militarists.  Clinton, with her votes for the wars in the Middle East, a disastrous regime change in Libya, and her cover for the Benghazi fiasco has proven she is not unreliableHer past is no liability either; she supported Barry Goldwater in 1964.  Sanders was just one of sixty-six congressmen who had the courage to vote against the Patriot Act. Being a socialist in the right wing's opinion is just a person who does not have the cojones to admit being a communist.  And you know how godless they are!

Friday, February 19, 2016

COTW: The Charts of Our Discontent

Only the pundits are surprised by the ferocity of the anti-establishment sentiment in both parties and driving the presidential campaigns of two very different populists. These charts explain it all:

The middle class is being squeezed, hard. Pew Research tells us that 57 of Americans think their incomes are falling behind the growing cost of living. That's up from 47% in 2006. The percentage who think of themselves as "middle class" has fallen to 44% from 53% in 2008. The fact is that since 1973 when productivity slowed, wages have decoupled from economic growth--thus it has been "downhill since Nixon".

This last chart from Doug Short shows two measures of inflation. PCE is used to adjust GDP for inflation, so the chart shows the PCE has systematically overstated the amount of real GDP growth by understating inflation growth. If GDP were adjusted using the CPI, which is itself manipulated, GDP growth would actually be negative.  A symptom of a contracting economy--despite huge amounts of stimulus poured in by the government--is a collapsing home ownership rate, especially among prime age home buyers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Southern California Gas Leak Plugged

It took the utility sixteen weeks to plug a well that spewed 90,000 tons of methane gas into the air and drove residents from their expensive homes in Porter Ranch.  A massive underground storage facility--the largest in the west--owned by Southern California Gas Co sprung a leak through a well drill in 1953 for oil and converted to natural gas storage in the 1970s.  The company expects to pay $300 million or more for residents' temporary lodging expenses.  They complained of headaches, nausea and nosebleeds.  But the company's troubles are not over.  Sixty-seven lawsuits including a wrongful death action have been filed against it, and the Los Angeles District Attorney has charged the utility with a misdemeanor crime for failing to report the leak immediately to state emergency officials.

Warren Buffet Killed Nevada Solar Industry

Bernie Sanders is campaigning hard against the plutocracy making life hard for the rest of us, and he made his point come home in Nevada. In Reno on Saturday he faced a small group of laid-off solar industry workers and wondered with them why they had lost their jobs in a state with abundant and unobstructed sunlight. The explanation is relatively simple if disturbing. In December the Nevada PUC, composed of three unelected, Republican office holders, hiked fees for rooftop solar installations and slashed rebates for supply power to the grid. The changes made it significantly more expensive for homeowners and businesspersons to install their own panels. This 3-0 decision came about despite a report issued by the PUC showing rooftop solar customers actually contributed more to the grid than they cost. The new solar rates were requested by NV Energy, the state's largest utility. Who owns NV Energy? Warren Buffet the billionare from Omaha. NV complained that solar customers were getting subsidized to such an extent they were harming the corporation's business, and they needed to be placed on an equal footing with other (fossil) fuel sources. So much for an outdated business plan--when you cannot adapt to a changing market, seek a bailout.

The political connections between NV Energy and state government are glaring, if not revealing: Governor Sandoval received maximum campaign contributions from NV Energy during his two campaigns, and two of his closest advisers, Peter Ernaut and Gregory W. Ferraro, are NV's primary state lobbyists. The end result of this manipulation by the Money Power is that Solar City announced in January it would leave Nevada and take with it 550 jobs. Vivint Solar also said it would leave as did Sunrun. All cited the change in rates as the reason they were leaving. Only Sanders met with the unemployed solar workers in Nevada. According to the Reno-Gazette Journal, Clinton was contacted by meeting organizer Great Basin Solar Exchange for an appearance, but received no response from the candidate. Sanders told the workers that moving to solar was a "moral responsibility" and that Nevada should be leading the way. He suggested that a few thousand displaced solar workers should petition Warren Buffet directly. So who feels your pain now, Nevada?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Annual Bison Slaughter May Kill 900 Buffalo

It may be a measure of this nation's schizophrenia that while conservationists struggle to reintroduce bison onto an empty western landscape that was once their home, the Park Service and the State of Montana have rounded up to nine hundred buffalo and caged them in secret corrals where they await slaughter starting Monday. This annual exercise in cruel excess is to protect Montana's cattle ranchers from the almost non-existent threat of brucellosis. While theoretically possible in the lab, transmission from bison to cattle has never been documented in the field. The argument is so discredited that officials are shifting their argument to "surplus" bison that need to be killed in order to preserve Yellowstone Park. That argument is not mentioned when it comes to elk which also carry the disease. Biologists think Yellowstone's carrying capacity for bison has not been reached¹; currently the park's herd stands at about 5000. The current cull is the largest since 2008 and represents about 18% of the herd.

One observer who has witnesses many of these culls over time writes in the New York Times, that the culls have very little to do with ecology or public safety, but much to do with politics. As the result of a lawsuit by the State of Montana, the federal government entered into a joint management plan for controlling bison numbers. Since that agreement in 2000, the federal government has spent $50 million in an annual round-up and shipment of capture animals to private slaughterhouses for disposal. That is 95% of the costs involved. Only about ninety buffalo have been killed by hunters this year. A former biologist with the Park Service says that the disease issue is a smoke screen.  The real reason the cull takes place is because a politically powerful livestock industry controls the process. As the result of more litigation by animal advocates, federal officials have to allow restricted access to media observers over four days of its choosing. Advocates argue this is an entirely too small a window from which to objectively view a slaughter that takes several weeks to complete. Clearly the US Park Service is not proud of its dirty work on behalf of Montana cattlemen. It is helping to destroy an iconic wild animal that the agency itself uses as a symbol of its mandate to protect the wild for posterity.

Of course the answer to this man-created problem is to allow bison to roam the western landscape as they once did. If domestic cows have to be moved, they can be transported much more easily to other ranges where they can await consumption. Montana is moving extremely slowly in this direction. Governor Bullock has proposed allowing no more than 600 bison to roam restricted areas beyond the park's western boundaries. There is no active cattle grazing in the areas proposed for bison use. But hazing of bison unaware of their limited tolerance in the "tolerance areas" will still be allowed if they overstep their place [photo]. The new policy is not a change of policy, but a modest, grudging concession to conservationists and wildlife advocates who want the unjustified annual killing of buffalo in Yellowstone to stop.

1.  A few scientists think some culling is necessary because the buffalo in the Park do no migrate anymore.  They can rapidly degrade grassland since the huge beasts devour 70 to 90% of Yellowstone's grasses.  But to US Person this opinion represents thinking inside the box.  Yellowstone is not an outdoor zoo and was never intended to be.  The solution lies in re-establishing a more natural balance between man's uses of the land and nature.   Yellowstone needs to be expanded in size, dramatically.  Its boarders should roughly coincide with the boundaries of the Yellowstone drainage basin.  Expanding Yellowstone will met with stiff resistance from private land owners who do not want to sell their private property.  The federal government has already spent $50 million killing bison; so generous offers to buy-out landowners does not pose an insurmountable barrier.  Buffalo numbers in an expanded Park could be controlled by limited sport hunting and translocation to former habitat throughout the west.  Yellowstone could be the genesis of a new and improved version of the American West.  Playing God?  Yes, because we were the Devil to begin with.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sperm Whales Stranding in Europe

courtesy: Maritime & Coast Guard Agency
More:  Scientific investigation into the deaths of six sperm whales has begun by Cetacean Strandings Investigation Program (CSIP).  Under a royal law from the 13th century, all whales, sturgeon and porpoises are regarded as "royal fish" so that when stranded or caught by fisherman they become crown property.  They are no longer placed on the Queen's table but formal record keeping of stranding began in 1913.  Speculation is building concerning the cause of the recent rash of strandings in Europe.  The leading cause is the whales got lost.  Their echo-location navigation system does not work well in shallow water and the North Sea is one of the shallowest in the world. Whether climatic change which has brought tropical species north is responsible for the whales leaving deep water is unknown.  Disease from parasite infection has also been posited.  More worrisome is the potential for toxic overloads of PCBs and heavy metals.  Heavy metals are now so concentrated in fish that pregnant women and small children are warned not to eat more than two portions of affected fish in a week.  A pod of pilot whales that stranded in Scotland contained high levels of cadmium in their brains.  Mercury concentrations were also high enough to cause stress on the mammals' bodies.

{04.02.16}Six sperm whales have washed ashore in Britain in recent weeks, of twenty-nine total throughout Europe. Volunteers were unable to re-float the mammal due to its massive size between 25 and 30 tons. The male died on the Norfolk beach of kidney failure, most likely [photo, credit]. Whales' massive bulk is supported by water, but when they beach their weight damages internal organs and muscles. People tried to make the whale more comfortable in its last hours by pouring water over its body. The UK does not possess the methods to humanely euthanize such large mammals. The tide arrived while it was still alive, but it did not recover. Scientists said it is likely the male came in with a pod to feed in shallow water, but it is not known whether any human activity was responsible for the spike in strandings. All six whales were males and were probably members of the same bachelor pod. Sperm whales are deep-sea carnivores and easily become disoriented in shallow water.  Once a necropsy
is completed, the carcass will be cut up and taken to a land fill or incinerated.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Three New Monuments

Driving the length of California's Central Valley, US Person was able to observe just how radically man has altered the natural landscape to suit his economic needs. It is very difficult for wild things to live in these massive monocultures because the natural food chain has been replaced or destroyed. So as a good steward of Earth it is man's responsibility to preserve those increasingly small regions where nature still balances the land.

Mojave Cholla cactus; credit Kolby
President Obama is leaving a legacy of natural monuments to his enduring credit, in the absence of progress through a deadlocked Congress. On February 12th he designated by executive authority three more national monuments sheltering 1.8m acres of public land in the deserts of Southern California: Mohave Trails National Monument, Sand to Snow National Monument and Castle Mountains National Monument. He has made more monument designations than any other president in history of 265m acres. The designations are located in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties and protect unique wildlife habitat, historic resources and cultural sites. Most importantly they connect existing reserves: Mohave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest and fifteen wildlife reserves previously designated by Congress. This is conservation on a landscape scale. Senator Dianne Finestein provided leadership in the decades long effort to protect special areas of the southern California desert. The land remains open to current uses such as grazing, military practice ranges, hunting, and outdoor recreations.

Route 66
Mojave Trails National Monument spans 1.6m acres of Mojave desert landscape including 400,000 acres of previously designated wilderness and one of the last remaining stretches of undeveloped Route 66. Sand to Snow Monument provides abundant opportunities for recreation along thirty miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail while protecting important connective corridors for wildlife amid its 154,000 acres. Castle Mountains National Monument will serve as critical connection between two mountain ranges that are home to golden eagles, mountain lion, bighorn sheep and bobcats. The President is following a precedent set by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 and exercised by 16 presidents since to preserve special natural areas under the federal Antiquities Act.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Justice Anthony Scalia Is Dead

Conservative firebrand Justice Anthony 'Nino' Scalia died today while hunting in Big Bend, Texas apparently of natural causes.  He was found dead in his quarters at age 79.  He will be remembered and perhaps vilified for his participation in two of the most controversial and disastrous opinions in Supreme Court history:  Bush v. Gore (2000) and Citizens United v. FEC (2010).  The first installed George W. Bush in the Office of President despite a popular vote in favor of Democrat Al Gore while the second allowed unlimited campaign financing from anonymous sources, thus insuring the predominance of the Money Power in our nation's politics.  Arguably these two decisions have done more to undermine democracy in the United States than Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which upheld the fugitive slave law as constitutional.  The Current Occupant has declared his intention to nominate a successor.  However, Senate conservatives will block any approval of his nominee until the election in eleven months. The Court, facing some of the nation'smost contentious social issues on its docket will be evenly split until a successor can be approved.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Democratic Debate: Live Blog

Prologue:  The latest knock against 'feeling the Bern' is that he is way behind Clinton in support from minorities.   Is it too gauche for US Person to suggest some non-white bigotry is responsible for the polls showing less support among blacks for a candidate [chart] whose socialist economic policies are much more supportive of their plight than Hillary Clinton's will ever be?  Bernie Sanders is after all, the first Jewish candidate to win a presidential primary election.  Prejudice against Jews in  urban black communities is deep seated. In the ghettos Jews were often the local icon of 'the man'--owner of the corner store or the tenement landlord. Jesse Jackson's infamous referral to New York City as "Jew Town" touched a deep discord that still exists.  Senator Sanders will try and focus his remarks on social justice to win minority support that is critical to a general election victory in the Wisconsin debate without appearing to pander to yet another special interest within the confines of the Democratic Party label.
credit: Washington Post-ABC News

18:07PST Senator Sanders opening remarks succinctly sum up what this election cycle should be about: fundamentally changing the structures of government and politics to address the increasing unfairness and inequality of American society. How an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton can achieve fundamental reform while leading change that would directly impact vested interests is not clear. 

6:15PST Conservatives and moderate liberals love to talk about the size of government, yet they never acknowledge the ever increasing size of the Pentagon and its budget.  It is the unspoken rule apparently that the Pentagon can never be reduced in size to pay for other forms of government service. The Pentagon has embarked on a program to spend $700billioin  modernizing nuclear weapons instead of providing free college education for anyone who want one.  America's competitiveness cannot be insured with guns but with a educated work force.

6:27 PST No one doubts Ms. Clinton's support for women's rights.  The women of New Hampshire understood that the problems facing American society go beyond gender.  Bernie Sanders is also a member of a minority.

632 PST  Answer: provide economic opportunities, reform laws that incarcerate people for minor drug offenses, focus on treatment for drug addiction not incarceration, and take big business out of the business of building prisons and staffing them. 

6:39PST  Obama disappointed a lot of Americans, black and white, with his incremental approach to governing. ("No He Can't")

6:52PST   How do you know a fascist?  Look at his immigration policies.  America is a nation of immigrants it should not really matter when you arrived.

6:56PST  Another reason US Person support Bernie Sanders: lifting the wage cap on social security tax so benefits can be increased to a realistic level.

7:05PST  Do we have Glass-Seagall back?  Is Blankfein doing time?  NO.  Is Morgan Stanley paying a minute fine for knowingly granting mortgages to borrowers without incomes? Seems like a quid pro quo to this commentator.

7:17PST  Here are three letters for you to begin with Senator Sanders:  F:35.  Weapons procurement continues to be the one sector of government where cost overruns are endemic.  The fighter is now so expensive even our allies cannot afford to buy it.

7:25PST  Nice reward for playing team ball, Ms. Secretary.  
Here's a complaint about teammate Henry Kissinger that the Senator was too polite to mention: he was instrumental in instigating the coup that assassinated Chile's democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende.

7:45PST  Mahatma Ghandi. Caesar Chavez. Both leaders who gave the final measure in pursuit of their goal of a better life for their countrymen.

7:52PST  A government for the people, by the people and of the people so that it may not perish from the face of Earth. 

Epilogue:  Citizens United has made a mockery of our political system; even the case name is a obvious rebuke to citizens who have given up on the system.  Bernie Sanders is offering to help us get rid of the heavy yoke of corporatism.  At least he is willing to try. It is a testament to the resiliency of our system that there is a Bernie Sanders to stand up and say what needs to be done. Hillary Clinton seems satisfied with tweaking the status quo.  Yes, America is not Europe and Henry Kissinger may be a war criminal, but there is nothing in our laws that would prevent us from adopting a more efficient means of healthcare, one that is not driven solely by profit.  A simple start could be made by passing a single payer option for the current system that got lost in the onslaught of insurance lobbyists.  Ms. Clinton implausibly wants to work with reactionaries in Congress that are still trying to undo the limited progress made under the Affordable Health Care Act. Governors that are unwilling to open their public colleges and universities to free higher education can be replaced.  The Supreme Court when properly staffed can overturn bad case law.  Only fear and trepidation holds us back. Never mind, on to Flint, MI where people are dying of lead poisoning and bad government.

More US Sabre Rattling in Europe

When the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton, says Russia is "moving borders" in Europe she has to conveniently ignore developments like this: NATO announced yesterday that it will move more troops and infrastructure to Russia's western frontier. The announcement means more NATO bases, pre-positioned military supplies such as tanks, artillery, trucks and fuel and more 'boots on the ground'. The Russian military establishment will view these measures with alarm since a key concept of their defense strategy is to prevent Russian encirclement. NATO typically takes the disingenuous view that is it is merely responded defensively to Russia's use of force against neighbors. During the past year US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has announced deployments of US hardware and forces to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. It conducted five simultaneous war drills with Lithuania troops in November. All of the enhanced activity is being conducted under the rubric of protecting "Eastern allies" against events like the seizure of Crimea and the crisis provoked by the US-backed coup in Ukraine.

The United States is not only preparing for conventional warfare in Europe, but also a nuclear confrontation. The Pentagon's 2017 budget allocates $3.2 billion for a modernization program of nuclear weapons. The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration which is responsible for nuclear warhead development is slated to received another $12.9 billion. These increased expenditures on warfare puts the country on track to spending more than $700 billion over the next 25 years on its already swollen nuclear arsenal. Want to know why we don't have social medicine or free college education like Germany? Because its war business as usual in Merika.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Conservationists Find 'Lost' Lion Population

Conservationists working in Alatash National Par in remote northwest Ethiopia have found a population of lions not previously known to science living in the park. Alatash is a huge region on the Sudanese border not visited often by outsiders. Lions are thought to have lived there for centuries and locals knew of their existence in the area. But the IUCN only considered Alatash a possible range for lions without any confirmed sightings. Renowned lion expert Dr. Hans Bauer and his team obtained camera images and lion tracks during an expedition supported by Born Free, the lion conservation society. The researchers also concluded that lions are living across the border in Sudan's Dinder National Park, adjacent to Alatash. Bauer concludes that densities are low due to low prey levels in an arid environment of about two lions per 100km².

IUCN lists lions as vulnerable and their numbers are estimated to have declined 50 to 70% since 1980. The species occupies only 8% of its historic range; they were thought to be extinct in Sudan. So the new information is encouraging and provides reasons for both Sudan and Ethiopia to protect the region as a lion stronghold.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Creature Feature: America's Only Known Jaguar

The video captures America's only known living jaguar as it stalks its Santa Rita Mountain home about twenty-five miles south of Tucson. "El Jefe" has been living there for over three years, only one of three or four jaguars spotted north of the border in twenty years. Few people know that the southwest US was once jaguar country, but there has been little concerted effort to reintroduce the predator to its rightful home. The last verified female jaguar was shot and killed in 1963 in Arizona. El Jefe's habitat is now threaten by a copper mining project that will span eight miles of the Santa Rita's 215 square miles. Currently the Rosemont Mine is in the permitting process.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Live Blog: New Hapshire Debate

What Senator Sanders did not mention in the last exchange concerning the Wall Street meltdown was that Robert Rubin,  a Wall Street insider, was President Clinton's choice for his Secretary of Treasury.  Rubin brought in other former Wall Street officials to serve in the administration that Ms Clinton is so proud of. Sanders point is that his opponent is too compromised to be an effective leader of a political revolution against the plutocracy..

It's not just where Ms. Clinton gets her financial support.  She actually does represent her "constituency", as a New York senator that happens to be Wall Street.  Ms. Clinton voted for bankruptcy "reform" that made it much more difficult for consumers to obtain Chapter 7  discharge from overwhelming debts.  The banking lobby wanted this legislation and Senator Clinton obliged.

Free college? Single payer health care?  No major tax increases for middle class and working families.  Is it possible?  Sure it is, IF corporations and the rich are denied their exorbitant privileges and the billions wasted every year on so-called "national security" is ended and the money saved diverted to needed social programs. This is why Sanders is calling his grass roots movement a revolution--a revolution in the way Americans think about politics and  their government and refuse to accept the status-quo as inevitable.

Ms. Clinton is right Bernie Sanders rejects neo-conservative foreign policy doctrine that is responsible for the quagmires in Afghanistan and Iran.  It is this policy of American hegemony supported by an bloated, expensive military establishment that needs to be reformed to prevent further foreign entanglements that cannot be won by force.

19:21PST NATO has done more to "move boundaries" in Europe than Russia has.  Russia has responded to what it sees as western provocation in the former Soviet Republics from the Baltic Sea to the Crimea.  Of course as a world power, it has geopolitical goals just like the United States.  The US would gain more from Russia by engaging that nation in mutual security building and peace-making efforts especially in Syria.

19:25PST Bernie is correct in his assessment of the results in Iowa.  Essentially it is a split decision, and a moral victory for a grass-roots campaign expected to fold after the Iowa Caucuses.  Yee-ha!

19:31PST The distinction between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio is fuzzy at best in the minds of most Americans because they are all establishment political figures.  They can understand the difference however between a social democrat and an evangelical plutocrat or bombastic billionaire snake-oil salesman.

19:36PST Thank you, Madam Secretary.

19:47PST The problem of public health poisoning by toxins goes way beyond the single city of Flint, MI. The epidemic of cancer and cancer related illnesses can in US Person opinion be laid at the feet of lax federal and state enforcement.  Hazardous materials of all types are used everyday in commercial and industrial activities.  Just look at the huge methane gas leak that goes currently unchecked in Southern California. A progressive administration would make vigorous environmental regulation and enforcement a top priority; it would end the false dichotomy between economic activity and environmental protection.

Epilogue: Senator Sander's campaign of "big ideas" is making the plutocrats nervous as evidenced by Goldman Sachs CEO Blankfein's comments after the New Hampshire debate. Well it should since they and other banksters like him are the ones who are stiffing this nation's democratic processes. We spent $26 trillion dollars saving them from their own folly, yet their most prominent member of the club has the audacity to label a grass-roots political campaign a "dangerous moment". If American's want to take back their government and live in a fairer society, then they have to support the only candidate willing to implement fundamental change, not incremental window dressing.  You simply cannot sum up a revolution in a few letters, and real reform goes way beyond gender.

credit: Gary Varvel
Wackydoodle sez: Nothin' like Iowa Humble Pie!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Tru'merica: "Know Nothing" Then and Now

The "Know Nothing Party" never really disappeared from American history, it simply morphed into the Republican Party that formed in 1854. Its characteristic suspicion of and discrimination against later immigrants, especially those of a different race or religion from the so-called "nativists", still resonates with a segment of the native born, white, Protestant public. A partial history in three parts: