Monday, February 27, 2017

Beluga Whales Threatened by Gas Leak

Beautiful, all-white beluga whales (Delphinapterus leuca) living in Alaska's Cook Inlet are already endangered, but now they face a new threat from a leaking gas pipeline.  Owned by Hilcorp, Inc. the fifty-two year old pipe is leaking an estimated 210,000-310,000 cubic feet of natural gas a day.  The pipe carries natural gas to four offshore oil platforms.  The leak was discovered by Hillcorp on February 7th when a helicopter pilot reported seeing bubbles reaching the surface.  Weather and ice have foiled attempts to reach the location of the leak.  This situation pointedly demonstrates the difficulty of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.  The company says it cannot be shut off without risking further disaster by triggering a crude oil leak. That statement is disputed by activists who maintain the company is refusing to shut off the gas flow because it wants the oil platforms to continue operating a full capacity.  Hilcorp specializes in buying older producing properties from other companies to squeeze more profits from their enhanced production.  One of the platforms that it bought from Shell is the oldest in the inlet, erected in 1964. It is supplied by the leaking gas pipeline.

There are an estimated 340 belugas left in Cook Inlet after a dramatic decline in their population during the 1990's.  Parts of the Inlet including the area of the leak were designated critical habitat for the beluga under the Endangered Species Act after the whale was declared endangered in 2008.  The Inlet is also home to endangered stellar sea lions and humpback whales.  Cook Inlet Keepers, a conservation organization, has filed a notice of intent to sue unless  Hilcorp stops pollution within sixty days.  An Alaska regulatory agency said Hilcorp has "a disregard for regulatory compliance that is endemic to its... Alaska operations."  Its compliance record is poor to say the least.  The company has accounted for more than a quarter of all violations on record with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission since 1977.  Incredibly, the company's website says "our commitment to environmental and social responsibility is unwavering."  US Person thinks talk is cheap when profits are large.

Hilcorp is owned by Jeffery Hildebrand, #123 on the Forbes' 2016 list of the wealthiest Americans.  Hilcorp is now the largest privately owned oil company in the country.  It is reported that Hildebrand bought conservationist and musician John Denver's estate in a secret sale for $8.5 million according to the New York Times.  Hildebrand and his wife also opened up River Oaks Donuts in the exclusive River Oaks neighborhood of Houston.  Donuts definitely taste better with money.

Friday, February 24, 2017

'Toontime: Washington Fever

credit: RJ Matson
The latest mantra in the Washington echo-chamber concerns the Donald's messing about with the other autocrat on stage, Vladimir Putin. Of course he wants good relations with Mr. Putin because he owns a lot of business interests in Moscow to which his Russian counterpart could be beneficial.  That he might be the Kremlin's pawn, in US Person's opinion, is only the wishful thinking of entrenched security apparatchiks, or angry Democrats seeking avenues of attack. Clearly the Donald has upset the American "deep state"* with his willingness to consider another mode of relating to the other powerful plutocracy on the planet. Of all the policy initiatives the Donald has publicly broached, some of which border on lunacy, a new rapprochement with Russia is the only one he can support. What used to be termed 'red-baiting' is old agitprop employed to discredit your domestic opponents. Nothing new here, so let's move on.
credit: Jim Morin, Miami Herald

*In 1957 Allen Dulles, father of the modern American intelligence establishment, told a Yale audience that Intelligence occupies "a more influential position in our government than Intelligence enjoys in any other government in world." This power base in an age of global terror has greatly expanded into a government within a government that operates beyond the bounds of public knowledge or constitutional restraint over the half-century since Dulles' statement was made.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Extinct Oryx Returns to Nature

ICUN put the scmitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) on its "extinct in the wild" list in 2008.  Conservationists from London's Zoological Society were not willing to just let the beautiful antelope with impressive backward curving horns die out.  Fourteen captive bred oryx were translocated to a remote reserve in Chad this January joining  twenty-one others already living in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve.  The antelope are reported to be thriving in their protected habitat on the edge of the Sahara Desert.  The first wild born oryx is believed to have been born in September of last year breaking a reproductive drought that has lasted twenty years.  The animals are wearing telemetry collars and receive supplemental feeding, but because they are doing well, conservationists think they can survive on their own [photo credits: ZSL].

Oryx were a victim of civil war and habitat destruction in the 80s and 90s.  The government of Chad partnered with Abu Dahbi's environment department and the Zoological Society [video] to establish a captive breeding program in the Reserve. ZSL contributed two oryx from its famous Whipsnade Zoo park. The release into the wild culminates decades of cooperative effort to bring the antelope back from extinction.  The reintroduction program received the support of local pastoralists, which the Reserve supports in large numbers.  The oryx, also called the white oryx, can be seen grazing among their camel herds.  The program's eventual goal is to reintroduce 500 oryx to form a self-sustaining herd.  The next group of 37 is scheduled to be released in August.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

COTW: Radiation Is Bad for Your Health

So who cares if the Japanese are living in a radioactive cloud?  We live on the other side of the Pacific.  Think again, McGinty!  If you are a sushi lover, you are consuming Fukushima Cs137, a long-lasting radioactive isotope.  This computer  simulation shows the spread of contamination 1412 days after the event occurred:

US officials constantly say that detected levels of cesium isotopes in migratory tuna are well below levels considered safe.  Go ahead have another bite of tuna, mate.  No worries!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Clean Up of Fukishima is "Humanly Impossible"

courtesy: TEPCo
Nuclear experts are becoming increasingly skeptical of Japan's ability to contain high levels of radioactivity emanating from the melting nuclear power reactors at Fukushima Daichi. TEPCo, the station's owner said that surface level radiation on parts used in a reactor could reach several thousand sieverts per hour, much more than the worse levels found at Chernobyl. Radiation inside reactor two is so intense it caused a hardened robotic device to fail.  It was built to withstand 1000 Sv/hr. According to one expert these levels will make decommissioning the plant impossible for a hundred years or more.  He recommends the three severely damaged reactors be entombed.  A molten core has apparently melted through one containment vessel into the Earth. [photo above]. TEPCO recorded a level of 530 Sv/hr in reactor 2--a lethal level of radiation after even a brief exposure.    For comparison purposes, a US nuclear worker is allowed an exposure of 50ⅿSv per year.  The Fukushima disaster occurred six years ago.

A prominent Australian physician, diplomat of the American Board of Pediatrics, and activist, Dr. Helen Caldicott, discussed the truth about Fukushima Daichi:

The reactor complex was built adjacent to a mountain range and millions of gallons of water emanate from the mountains daily beneath the reactor complex, causing some of the earth below the reactor buildings to partially liquefy. As the water flows beneath the damaged reactors, it immerses the three molten cores and becomes extremely radioactive as it continues its journey into the adjacent Pacific Ocean....Vast areas of Japan are now contaminated, including some areas of Tokyo, which are so radioactive that roadside soil measuring 7,000 becquerels per kilo would qualify to be buried in a radioactive waste facility in the U.S...Bottom line, these reactors will never be cleaned up nor decommissioned because such a task is not humanly possible.
About 90,000 more tons of contaminated cooling water are held in above ground storage tanks and in the reactor buildings' basements. All of this contaminated storage is at risk from seismic activity in the region. Despite all of these huge difficulties Japan's minister of economy is officially optimistic that Fukushima can be decommissioned and rebuilt by, "mobilizing all of Japan's technical ability."  Is not technological hubris the reason Fukushima happened in the first place?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

'Toontime: Trump in the Belfry

credit: Taylor Jones
BC Idonwanna sez: You get what you pay for! 

When a respected commanding general says the United States government is in "unbelievable turmoil" , US Person takes note. Perhaps that is what comes of installing an (un)reality TV star in the room without corners.  Trumpit has either digested Dr. Goebbels* or P.T. Barnum. You decide, but the "freak show" is sure to continue.

credit: N. Beller, Columbus Dispatch
Wackydoodle sez:  Ol' P.T. said there ain't no such thing as bad publicity!
* Josef Goebbels, propaganda minister for the Third Reich, told an audience of Nazi party members: "To attract people, to win over people to that which I have realized as being true, that is called propaganda. In the beginning there is the understanding, this understanding uses propaganda as a tool to find those men, that shall turn understanding into politics. Success is the important thing. Propaganda is not a matter for average minds, but rather a matter for practitioners. It is not supposed to be lovely or theoretically correct. I do not care if I give wonderful, aesthetically elegant speeches, or speak so that women cry. The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right. I speak differently in the provinces than I do in Berlin, and when I speak in Bayreuth, I say different things from what I say in the Pharus Hall [Berlin]. That is a matter of practice, not of theory. We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths. Those are found in other circumstances, I find them when thinking at my desk, but not in the meeting hall.  See H. Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarinism, p.345 for the oft-noted similarities between totalitarian propaganda and business advertising.  Hitler stressed this point in Mein Kampf where he used the business example of selling soap.

Friday, February 17, 2017

COTW: Historic US Inflation

This chart shows that for most of its early history the United States suffered very little inflation.  Post Civil War there was actually mild deflation for the rest of the 19th century.  It was not until the formation of a private central bank in 1913 that the nation began its current inflationary road trip.  Now, inflation is actually a policy goal of the Federal Reserve, and one that is unlikely to change given the humongous national debt ($20 trillion). As the chart below shows inflation is not a new method of financing empire.  Late Roman emperors debased the silver denarius to pay for the legions, the only institution holding it together at the end. The early coin contained 4.5g of silver; it ended with a thin silver coating over base metal. History rhymes. Now, in the digital age and IOUs (paper money), it is even easier to pay past debts with less valuable money. In the meantime the rest of us suffer the effects of a fourteen fold increase in the costs of living.

source: The Money Project

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Delmarva Squirrel is Back

credit: M. Hendricks
The squirrel formally named Sciurus niger cinereus spent fifty years on the Endangered Species list.  2016 was the anniversary of its de-listing.  That event was not deplorable, but an affirmation that legal protection under the Endangered Species Act, which many conservatives want to emasculate in the interests of development, actually works to bring threatened species back from the brink of extinction.  The Delmarva fox squirrel has repopulated the peninsula for which it is commonly named.  Much of the population lives in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.  Data recently collected by scientists shows that the shy, sliver-grey squirrel continues to do well.  It is larger than common grey squirrels, reaching 2.5 feet in length with a tail of up to 15 inches long.  Despite its large size its behavior is furtive.  However, they have been known to noisily confront hunters lurking in tree stands.

marsh conversion, credit: W. Flanagan
This animal was one of the original species to be listed under the predecessor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967.  At the time of listing the fox squirrel inhabited only 10% of it historic range due to over-hunting and habitat loss.  It likes to live in mature, mixed forests of hardwoods and pine;  most of this has been lost to agriculture and development.  Surviving squirrels inhabited mostly private land where suitable habitat remained.  Any hope of restoring the beautiful squirrel depended on cooperation from private land owners and government conservation officials.  Fortunately, a successful partnership was formed.  Private landowners allowed the fox squirrel to continue living on their properties, and accepted translocated squirrels or returned their land to a more suitable, natural state.  Wildlife authorities think that without landowner cooperation, Delmarva's iconic squirrel would not have recovered from its endangered status.  After two status reviews in 2007 and 2012, the squirrel population on the peninsula is estimated to be 20,000, occupying about 28% of Delmarva.  Monitoring the population in Blackwater NWR, [photo] a twenty-nine thousand acre reserve of woods and water, will continue for five years as required under the Act to insure its gains are not reversed after de-listing.

So far, the data shows the population is stable, but the effects of global warming on sea levels are worrisome for some conservationists. Due to rising sea levels, Blackwater's marshes are converting to open water. [see photo above, computer simulation right] Every year Maryland looses 380 acres of its shoreline to the sea. There is little chance of restoring disappearing marshes in Blackwater. Sea level rise is inevitable, outruns sedimentary deposition, and the flat topography is uncooperative. The cost to fill open water with dredge material from Baltimore harbor runs into the billions.  So managers hope to facilitate the natural migration of marshes up slope.  When marshes do migrate, less salt-water tolerant tree species die off.  Hopefully, the beautiful fox squirrel will move too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bundys Back in Federal Court

After a Portland, OR jury nullified the prosecution of the Bundy brothers for their armed occupation and trashing of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a bizarre assertion of phantom states rights, the brothers and their father Cliven are back in federal court in Nevada facing more serious charges relating to an attempted BLM round up of Bundy cattle. The defendants, lead by the Bundys, face 15 counts of assault and threats against federal officers.  The first group to be prosecuted includes Idahoan Eric Parker who was photographed aiming an assault rife toward federal agents near Bunkerville, NV during the tense standoff in 2014. [photo credit: Reuters] 
Mainstream legal experts including US Person agree the Bundy claim that the federal government cannot own land belonging to sovereign states is ridiculous.  Eleven attorneys general in western states found their arguments deeply flawed.  Yet Ammon Bundy's explanation of his family's claims was cogent enough to convince a Portland, OR jury to acquit him and his brother Ryan of federal conspiracy charges arising out of the Malheur take-over. [photo: Ammon at left]  Then again, the unofficial motto of that city is, "keep Portland weird". Admittedly the conspiracy case was a difficult one to prove, and when it was revealed in trial that nine "occupiers" were FBI informants, the conspiracy case was severely weakened.  The defense was aided by strategic jury selection from the entire state, not just the liberal metropolitan region. Oregon is notoriously conservative outside of its urban centers. The brothers' acquittal rattled federal prosecutors. Now there is information that  felony charges against other Malheur defendants may be dropped in exchange for a plea to misdemeanor trespass. 

Cliven Bundy stopped paying federal grazing fees over two decades ago.  The BLM took Cliven Bundy to federal court which first ruled in the federal government's favor in 1998.  Years of settlement negotiations over payment of $1.2 million in back grazing fees failed to produce a settlement.  A frustrated BLM finally began seizing hundreds of Bundy cattle in 2014, but when hundreds of militant supporters showed up at the ranch to protect Bundy property, the agency backed down and returned the seized livestock.  

Cliven Bundy's interpretation of federalism is extreme. [photo credit: D. Becker] He told interviewers a radio audience that, "I don't recognize the United States government as even existing."  That statement directly contradicts Nevada's state constitution which expressly recognizes the paramount power and jurisdiction of the federal government.  In fact, Nevada achieved statehood in 1864 because its framers were overwhelmingly Unionist, and Lincoln wanted more electoral votes to guarantee his reelection and pass the 13th Amendment.  He signed the bill authorizing an official constitutional convention for Nevada statehood.  All of this explicit Nevada recognition of supreme federal authority came two decades before scofflaw Cliven Bundy's antecedents settled in the state.

The denouement of the latest "Sagebrush Rebellion" may occur in the Bundys' Nevada trial.   The history of western resentment of federal authority has a long, sporadic history.  The modern eruptions started in the 1970's during the administration of Jimmy Carter, but the movement was diffused by the election of Ronald Regan and appointment of private property advocate James Watt as Secretary of Interior.  Watt did not support wholesale divestment but his rollback of federal land ownership and regulation was enough to stave off further widespread protests, and change the direction the agency's iconic buffalo seal was facing from left to right.  The rebellion was also led by some high-profile right-wing Senators, including Orrin Hatch, Barry Goldwater and Ted Stevens.  They headed LASER, or the League for the Advancement of States Equal Rights.  Ronald Regan claimed to be a "sagebrush rebel" and courted their support.  Nevertheless the political rhetoric was no match for economic reality and the rebellion fell apart by the early 1980s.  

Colorado had its own anti-conservation revolt against federal forest reserves in the 1890's that also faded. Federal agents sent to Denver in 1907 by Teddy Roosevelt faced down rebels gathered at a public lands convention convened by the Colorado legislature.  The founder of the federal Forest Service Gilford Pinchot told the conventioneers in no uncertain terms the federal government was right, that it would not back down, and that it would enforce its land rights.  The insurgents had no where to go.  Former Colorado Governor Lamm observed in his 1982 book The Angry West, "by asserting, even flaunting, a regional independence that never existed, the proud West becomes the foolish West. Worse, by continuing to act today as though it still has no need for the federal government, even as it continues to profit from federal largesse, it compounds its hypocrisy and undermines its credibility."  Why these battles over federal supremacy have to be repeated periodically is something of a mystery to US Person, especially after a bloody Civil War over "state's rights" was won by a federal Union.  People like the Bundys should read their US history more closely, and not allow their greed to blind them from reality. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

India's Rangers Use Deadly Force to Protect Rhinos

The poachers in India's Karziranga National Park on the banks of the Bramaphutra will surely get the message:  they risk being shot on sight if they poach one of the remaining Indian rhinoceros living there.  Two thirds of the world's population of the one-horned rhino live in Kaziranga, which is a conservation success story.  At one time only a handful of Indian rhinos survived in the wild, now an estimated 2400 exist in the Park, thanks in part to the controversial authority granted rangers to kill suspected human poachers.

It is a drastic action to kill a human being engaging in criminal activity without due process of law, a principle ingrained in common law countries and their former colonies.  Usually fatal force is reserved for police use against the most dangerous animal on Earth--man.  But the authority granted to Karzranga's rangers is recognition of the dire straits of animals bearing coveted body parts like horn and ivory. The street price for horn--considered an aphrodisiac--can reach $6000 per 100g making it more valuable than gold.  Indian rhino horn is considered more potent than African two-horned. At one point (2014-15) rangers were killing more than twenty people a year--more than the number of animals poached. Unfortunately innocent villagers are sometimes caught up in the war to protect rhinos. Dr. Singh, who runs the park, says he thinks about 300 villagers are involved in poaching, but the actual killers come from neighboring states. Standing orders are to shoot anyone hunting at night.  Dr. Singh also instructs his rangers to warn first, then use their weapons.

Nevertheless there are stories of unjustified deaths and injury among the villagers. A young boy was severely crippled by gunshots from rangers. He was only in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The Park authority admitted the mistake and paid for his medical treatment at the main hospital five hours away.  Despite numerous operations to repair his destroyed calf muscle, the boy will be crippled for life. The Park paid about $3000 to the boy's family in compensation. His father says his son will not be able to make a living for the rest of his life.

Getty Images: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge feeds a calf
Karziranga is densely populated like the rest of India, so the death toll is becoming a sore point with local inhabitants.  Critics call the use of deadly force to protect wildlife  "extra-judicial executions".  American police officers are armed and some critics argue, dangerous, but their use of deadly force to allegedly to protect themselves and the public is also justified as a deterrent to more crime. If a criminal's victims is an innocent animal threatened with extinction, then in US Person's opinion it is not a moral overreach to use deadly force to suppress this existential threat.  In some Indian tiger reserves there are no tigers because they fail miserably to protect the vanishing, iconic animal. Karziranga National Park is going the needed extra mile. Make no distortion, rangers need to be accountable at law for their actions. Only then can they make morally defensible decisions to use deadly force to protect a wild life.

'Toontime: Quotidian Trump

credit: Joe Heller
Wackydoodle sez: Cannuks want wall too!

US Person admits: it is fun to be fascist. Nothing like an easy ego boost by indulging in displays of self-righteousness. The Donald should know.  Whether he is signing a "Muslim ban" immigration rule, or selling a wall to keep out a much needed low-wage workforce from the south.  He has been there with "alternative facts" in his first month of office.  What he will find out is that being President is not like being a CEO.  Your staff cannot flog your daughter's clothing line and your tweet is not law, as the Ninth Circuit unanimously showed him.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

More Western Landscape Protected

Repugnants began their assault on the public estate without waiting for the Trumpster to occupy the room-without-corners. Utah conservative Rob Bishop introduced a measure, which to the uninitiated seemed innocuous enough, but in reality it was a direct shot at making disposal of public land a lot easier. The bill provides that conveying federal land is not considered an increase in the federal deficit requiring a budget offset. In other words, it made the federal public land estate worthless for fiscal purposes. The bill passed the conservative House of Representatives and did not require Senate approval, being a fiscal measure. The bill is in conformity with the Repugnant pledge in its party platform to divest public lands to the states. Once considered a fringe notion of the goofy right-wing, since the Malheur NWR "occupation" by the Bundys, {29.01.16} it has received a lot more traction in the public mind--witness their exoneration by a Portland, OR federal jury. The Wilderness Society expressed great concern over Bishop's piece of legislative legerdemain. One officer of the conservation group co-founded by Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall said, "The first thing out of the gate is to grease the skids", and noted no rational private landowner would treat their holdings as essentially worthless.  In response to the accusation he was paving the way for public land divestiture Rep. Bishop replied, "Bullshit."  No, Mr. Bishop, it is ideological fanaticism.

Two weeks after Bishop got his foot in the door, another conservative Utah Representative introduced a bill to sell 3.3 million acres of land in ten states. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was not to be outdone, suggesting that the recent Bear Ears Monument designation would be shortly overturned, adding that the Donald is "eager to work with me to address this". Obama designated 1.35 million acres in the Great Basin a monument just before he left office. {04.01.17} The designation was the culmination of a decade of effort by conservationists and Native Americans who consider parts of the landscape sacred.

It is somewhat ironic, if it were not dead, that the conservation movement at the beginning of the 20th Century was supported by a powerful Utah Senator, Reed Smoot. He supported the foundation of the National Forest Service (1905) and the National Park Service (1910). Now his state has become a hotbed of hotheaded public land divestiture. Most Westerners oppose divestiture. Much  federal revenue goes to those western states that have large areas of federal land within their borders. Robert Nelson, an economist at the Interior Department wrote that contrary to the popular image of "rugged individualism", the Intermountain West and Great Plains regions of the country are highly dependent on federal funds. The federal government owns an astonishing 86% of Nevada, and even 47% of urbanized California. Just one example of how the federal government subsidizes western development, which has a history going back to the Lewis and Clark expedition (1805), is its management of rangelands. The US government spends far more on management of these lands than the revenue it receives from ranchers who graze their livestock on public property. Disposal of federal lands effectively ended in 1934 with the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act.  This policy was made explicit in the Federal Land Policy Act of 1976 that formalized federal land management by the BLM.

Rebellions seeking divestiture have arisen sporadically for the last 150 years, the previous one, called the "Sagebrush Rebellion" sputtered out because there was grudging recognition of western economic dependence on federal land subsidies. The latest episode began in 2012 when a Utah state legislator demanded in a bill that the federal government "return" 31 million acres of public land in Utah land including Bryan, Arches, and Zion National Parks. Incredibly the bill passed the legislature, but without federal acquiescence it went nowhere. Arizona passed a similar bill in the same year, but the governor vetoed it.  Now, the divestiture movement has attracted the opposition of a powerful economic interest, the outdoor recreation industry.

Whether the 'ace' businessman in the White House will reach a similar conclusion regarding the latest divestiture moves remains to be seen. When economists look at the issue they conclude that it only makes sense if a state transfers mineral rich divested lands to mining and oil companies for exploitation. So, once again the capitalists are masquerading as down-home populists, seeking ways to bamboozle the witless public. House Bill 621 to sell the 3.3 million acres of public estate was withdrawn after a significant public protest, but with their twittering puppet installed into power, they are ahead of this game.

Monday, February 06, 2017

COTW: Shoreline Losses in Louisiana

A study by the USGS using airborne remote sensing has determined that the
Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in US history, has caused significant erosion of the shoreline in the Mississippi Delta region. The study looked at the shore of northern Barataria Bay a year before the spill until 2.5 years after the disaster in April to September, 2010.  The researchers compared the wetlands loss after the spill to loss of wetlands after Hurricane Issac in 2012.  They found widespread loss of shore due to crude oil coating whereas the hurricane caused only isolated losses of wetland. [see chart] Being able to compare the two events and their effect was key to correlating causation for marshland erosion. Scientists say the losses will further impact natural defenses against flooding since river levees prevent the depositing of sediments needed to reform fragmented barrier islands and eroded marshes.  The study is presented in the journal "Geophysical Research Letters"

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Electric Leaf Goes to Cuba

The ingenuity Cubans use to keep their vintage American hulks of steel on the road is famous world-wide.  During the half-century of economic embargo parts for the dirty classics are hard to find at any price.  Often Soviet-era Russian parts have to be adapted to fit.  They still run on leaded gasoline, which pollutes the atmosphere [photo below]. Now that relations have thawed somewhat thanks to former Pope John Paul, Cubans may be driving newer, cleaner American-made vehicles.  The news is:  they are electric.  Nissan's successful, electric Leaf {08.11.10}, made in the USA, will be exported to the island nation under a US Treasury trade license granted to Premier Automotive Export of Miami and the Caymans.  [photo above, credit: G. Meyers]

The cold war "Catch 22" is the electric vehicles cannot be sold to Cuba's communist government, but they can be used by American businesses and embassies based in Cuba.  Owner of the export company is optimistic the car will be popular with the Cuban people despite the trade restrictions still in place. Cars cannot be resold without permission from the US government, but they can be sold to self-employed Cubans and non-state businesses.  There is no limit on the number of electric cars that can be imported. They will be delivered to the island by a twice weekly container ship from Port Everglades, Florida.  This is a business that make sense for the planet.

Friday, February 03, 2017

'Toontime: Buyers' Remorse

credit: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News
BC Idonwanna sez: Now enough to buy one more aircraft carrier!

Nothing new here. The Repugnants never met a  military build-up they could not embrace because it is a form of corporate welfare with which they are very comfortable. It is all guns, no butter, all the time, and blame the crude, brown immigrants! Don't believe unpatriotic US Person? Just read what the finance capitalists did to Detroit, our own smaller version of Greece!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

COTW: Why 'Mericans Voted Against Obamacare

This chart sums it all up:

credit: Forbes
The Affordable Care Act is not affordable, as both healthcare costs and insurance premiums continue to rise. Insurance companies predictably blame the universal mandate for the premiums going up since it costs more to insure the previously uninsured, and the Act requires ten basic benefits so there is less room to manipulate product options. The real reason, which advocates of a single-payer system know and tried to convince the public of, is that health in the United States is still a profit-based industry cornered by the insurance companies. Only a government entitlement to health care will solve the problem as all other advanced countries realized decades ago.  The ACA is a giant kluge instituted at the insistence of the insurance industry in order to stave-off socialized medicine in the United States.  It's time will come.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Hunters Auction Animal Lives to Lobby Trump

African Safaris International, a powerful hunting lobby, will auction 280 South African animals to fund its Washington lobby efforts to change laws that protect endangered animals.  Nimrods who have more money than compassion for animals whose lives are increasingly difficult because of man will be sold the chance to kill giraffe, hippo, zebra, baboon, wildebeest, sable antelope, impala, kudu, springbok, caracal, biesbok, and 119 other species for "upgrades" costing more.  The auction is expected to raise about one million dollars.

The group undoubtedly will have great political influence in return for its blood money since the Interior Department is now led by conservative appointees unsympathetic to conservation values. One hundred and forty-seven pro-hunting politicians have been elected to Congress. The Tucson group recently filed a lawsuit against the Fish &Wildlife Service defending the practice of aerial hunting of predators in Alaska's natural wildlife refuges.  The President's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric are both trophy hunters.  This group has significant influence on African governments too.  In 2010 Nambia was influenced by Safari International to reverse its ban on cheetah and leopard hunting.  It was also successful in altering the same policy in neighboring Zambia.  The press and public was banned from Safari International's meetings with South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs.

Hunting for trophies is often bizarre in its cruelty to wild animals.  For example,  South African safari companies offer to hunt trophies with dogs similar to a fox hunt in which the animal is chased to exhaustion, trapped, and then shot at close range  Nothing like an unfair fight, but then these populist profiteers have already told us they are not interest in fairness, just winning.  It is as one European leader put it, "a return to the dark days of the 1930's."