Wednesday, May 31, 2017

COTW: Life Without Paris?

They achieved the nearly impossible in Paris, after a decade or more of effort: delegates from 186 nations agreed to do something significant about global warming. That incredible accord among 186 sovereign nations will now be put into jeopardy by one misguided man: Donald Trump. This chart shows what he will throw away:

INDCs are the national contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the agreement.  They are intended for review every five years and ratcheted upward to achieve a livable climate that may avoid most of the catastrophic effects of unchecked emissions. Donald Trump says "NOT" to all of that, despite being advised by his closest team members, businesses, investors and national allies to abide by the agreement.

A reactionary cabal of conservative senators led by Mitch McConnell who represents coal mining interests in Kentucky are pursuing a radical course against global agreement in a naked, immoral and destructive pursuit of profit at the expense of the planet. These deceitful politicians, handmaidens of Mammon, repeatedly pointed out China as the stumbling block to US participation in a global agreement. They cannot do that anymore because China signed the Paris accord. Blaming China was simply a smoke screen for their own entrenched opposition to saving the planet from a dystopian future.  They would rather line their pockets and those of their military-industrial-financial complex masters than do something about the gravest threat the United States faces in the 21st century and beyond. What boggles US Person's mind more than the duplicity of politicians* is that a majority of 'Mericans swallowed the toxic cool-aide dispensed by Trump during his campaign under the nonsensical rubric of 'making America great again'. In just over 120 days in office he has not made America great, but a rogue outsider among the community of nations.

*The extent of DC politicians' perfidy is epitomized by this historic nugget from the depths of the Cold War. President Eisenhower's Democratic critics accused him of allowing a "bomber gap" with the Soviets to develop during the 1950's. Later, the alleged lapse in defense policy was modified to suit presidential candidate Senator John Kennedy's purposes into a "missile gap". What was the actual factual basis for all these deadly "gaps"? In 1955 the Russians put on their usual May Day parade of military assets. A squadron of strategic jet bombers flew over Red Square as part of the show. Since the Russians only had ten of these bombers, their flyers were directed to circle around Moscow and pass in review several times to give observers the impression of a much larger jet bomber force on display. Always ready to ignore reality if it advances their political agendas, American war mongers accused fiscally conservative Eisenhower, the commanding general of victory in Europe, of being soft on the commies! The fact was that at the time the United States' nuclear arsenal was both larger and more advanced than the Soviet Union's. America has been at war in Afghanistan for fifteen years at the cost of billions of dollars, not to mention thousands of American lives. It still cannot assure the safety of Kabul's streets. Does it really want to, or is perpetual war the object?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Great Barrier Reef 'Doomed'

bleaching at Orpheus Island, credit G. Torda
The experts admit: Australia's Great Barrier Reef cannot be saved.  Already half of the Reef has been killed by record warm water temperatures for the second year in a row.  A 2015 official report concerned how best to preserve the Reef, but that optimism is no more.  The latest aerial surveys show a bleaching event almost as severe as the 2016 record when two-thirds of the Reef experienced bleaching due to high water temperatures.  Only the southern third of the Reef has escaped widespread bleaching. Bleaching occurs when coral eject pigmented algae in order to survive.

El Nino contributed to the bleaching last year, but this year there is no El Niño effect and the bleaching is almost as bad.  Dr. James Kerry of James Cook University, who undertook the aerial surveys said, “It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016." There has already been four severe events in the last eighteen years--1998, 2002, 2016, and now 2017. The rise in water temperatures due to global warming will continue to bleach the Reef. A reef expert who has focused on water quality told the Guardian that the federal government's efforts to improve the Reef's water quality have also failed. The loss of one of Nature's great wonders would mean the loss of one million visitors to Queensland, and drain $1b from its economy.

Friday, May 26, 2017

'Toontime: The "A" List

credit: Steve Sack, Star Tribune
BC Idonwanna sez: Duterte no get memo!

Der Speigle has nailed it after the gaff-filled Trump trip to Europe and the Mid East designed to distract the 'Merican public from his mounting problems within the Beltway.  The German newspaper's conclusion: Trumpster is a danger to the Republic. Perhaps the Washington elite is finally waking up to that fact. The United States cannot afford more enemies at this point in its checkered history, and the arrogance of its 45th talking head is alienating allies and encouraging enemies.  Just ask the President of Montenegro! Sure it is a speck on the Balkan map, but Montenegro is a member state of the European Union and astride the immigration route to Europe from the Middle East.  It would be nice to have their cooperation.  Trump is not starring in a "reality" TV show, he is supposed to be guiding a great nation-state, and cooperatively, the western world.  After 120 days in office, he is failing in that job.  If this were "The Apprentice" he would be fired.  In the words of one journalist covering Trump, "Trump behaves not unlike a small child that bites and scratches to get the loving attention it wants". Crazy?  Look whose setting up a bunker in the White House.  "Bad, very bad" to quote the Trumpet.

Birds Struggle to Cope with Climate Change

Spring is arriving late in the west and early in the east by as much as a day each year for the past decade; spring begins with a natural event: leaf out of trees and plants.  That is not good news for migrating birds who follow a strict schedule for their stressful journeys.  A new study in Scientific Reports says that 9 of 48 species studied were unable to adjust their internal clocks to coincide with local photosynthesis ("green-up").  Climate change is predicted to drive hundreds of bird species to extinction and curtail the range of others.  Fortunately, the majority of species seem to be able to cope with the new climate imposed by man.

This chart from the study sums up some of the findings. Arrival is getting earlier and later, but not synchronous with green-up arriving earlier in the east and later in the west:

The blue line indicates when arrival and green-up are synchronous.  Black is a linear regression of the data points. The variance in the line slopes is statistically significant.  Each symbol represents a different ecosystem and species.  The chart shows that earlier arrivals are not keeping up with altered photo-periods.  In the words of the study, "arriving too early at breeding grounds can bring risk of freezing (due to cold temperatures) and hatching chicks before peak resource abundance, whereas arriving too late can mean fewer nest sites, fewer mates with successfully guarded territories, and declining resource abundance. As such, the loss of synchron[icity] between insect emergence and migrant bird arrival phenology [timing] can be accompanied by negative fitness consequences" which result in declining populations.  The species that are most negatively impacted by climate change are Yellow Cuckoos, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, and Indigo Buntings.  The scientists used data collected by "citizen scientists"--birdwatchers--posted to the website, eBird.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Scientists Make Progress for Devil

No, not Satan, but the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) which is currently threatened by an outbreak of a virus caused cancer that is transmissible. {19.05.12} Devil facial tumor disease is horribly disfiguring and the tumors grow so large as to prevent the animal from feeding.  The disease is nearly 100% fatal.  It was first detected in 1996 and has decimated populations since then, wiping out more than 80% of Tasmania's iconic marsupial. Last year researchers found that the Devil is developing resistance to the virus.  After extensive laboratory work using immunotherapy, they have successfully shrunk and eliminated small tumors.  Their work is reported in the journal Scientific Reports.  These results give hope for the development of a vaccine.  Efforts are now focused on improving the Devil's response to immunization according to Dr. Cesar Tovar of Menzies Institute for Medical Research.  The existence of a vaccine is good news for captive bred Devils, who can now only be successfully released to the wild after immunization.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Articles Are A'Comin'

Yes, folks, as US Person posted months ago, the Donald appears to be headed toward the same proceedings as 'Liar Bill'.  Democratic Congressman Al Green told the press that Articles of Impeachment are being drawn up.  Under the Constitution impeachment proceedings must originate in the House and be tried by the Senate.  Green also revealed that he is receiving racists threats, but he is undeterred in his efforts to introduce a bill of particulars into the House.  The word "impeachment" has been bandied about on the Hill frequently since the firing of FBI Director Comey and Trump's apparent efforts to derail the Russian Connection investigation were revealed.  Any effort to impeach the President for obstruction faces long odds against success since both legislative bodies are controlled by Repugnants.  It takes a two-thirds majority to win a conviction in the Senate.  Bill Clinton won that vote easily with all Democratic Senators voting to acquit him of perjury and obstruction.

Democrats are accusing the Trump Circus of directing federal agencies not to respond to routine requests for information from Democratic members.  This lack of cooperation is a departure from long standing practice of previous administrations from both sides.  Two hundred written requests by Democrats have gone unanswered since Trump took office.  “The fact that they just turn their back on [congressional] oversight is part of a deeper syndrome, which is no respect for separation of powers, no respect for how the Constitution set up our government. It’s going to hurt the country, and it’s going to hurt them,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday.  Trump's cruel and extreme budget has been declared a non-starter, even by his own caucus in the Senate.  Trump's public approval rating is already low and likely to fall even lower:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

COTW: Battery Boom

Close readers of this space know that US Person does not usually endorse products or companies.  The last products he did endorse were Nissan's Leaf and Chevrolet's Volt automobiles because the are proverbial steps in the right direction towards a sustainable, sun-driven economy. And he likes cars.

Visionary Elon Musk's Tesla Company has to be added to this short list with its electric car for the people, the Tesla Model 3.  Think of it as the 21st century's Model T.  Granted, it will not be as inexpensive in relative terms to Ford's mass produced breakthrough, but it will be cheaper than the luxury Model S and will still be on the cutting edge of electric transportation.  Interestingly, Tesla's cars will come with an optional solar cell roof that will enhance their range without struggling to find a still rare recharging station.  Electric cars first made their appearance at the turn of the 20th century, and might have captured the auto market from petrol driven cars except for the fact battery technology was primitive lead-acid which limited the auto's range and had a serious hazardous potential.

That is set to change with Tesla's gigafactory in the Nevada desert which will mass produce energy dense lithium-ion storage batteries.  This technology is essential to a successful transfer to non-fossil fuels and alternative energy supplying the grid.  All those gigawatts generated by wind, tide, and solar power have to be stored somewhere when environmental conditions are not favorable to power generation, but demand for energy is always current.  Tesla's visionary investment in advanced batteries got a comforting endorse from one of the leaders of Germany's technological establishment, AG Daimler. 

Chancellor Angela Merkle is scheduled to break ground today on a $543 million plant to make storage batteries for Daimler outside of Berlin. Given investment  in power storage by two dominant industries, the technology will drive battery prices down as it matures.  Experts estimate that by 2030 electric cars will be competitively priced with fossil fuel cars and a lot cleaner.  Plants are also planned for Poland, Sweden and Hungary and will cut the cost of lithium power packs by 43%.

Another exciting Tesla innovation is its solar home roof, a clever piece of materials engineering that uses glass tiles to transmit light energy to underlying solar panels without a significant loss of power.  These glass tiles can be made to resemble conventional tile, slate or asphalt, giving homeowners previously unavailable style options.  More importantly the tiles eliminate the need for unsightly frames to hold solar arrays.  The solar roofs look exactly like non-solar roofs and last longer while moving the homeowner closer to being their own utility company.  Look at this Bloomberg video for a preview of what is coming.  Yes, US Person has to say it, Green Kudos to Tesla, Inc.  There is a way if we choose to follow the sunlit path.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trophy Hunter Killed; Little Girl Snatched

A well-known trophy hunter, Theunis Botha, was killed in a violent encounter with an elephant herd in Zimbabwe last week.  Botha, who owned a South African outfitting company that specialized in "hunting leopards and lions with hounds", was walking in the bush with companions when they crossed paths with a herd of breeding elephants.  Perhaps recognizing their enemy, the elephants charged the group.  Botha began firing, but an elephant surprised him by charging from Botha's side.  This elephant lifted his attacker in the air with his trunk, but was shot to death by Botha's companions.  The elephant collapsed, fell on Botha, and crushed him.   Botha's death occurred on Good Luck Farm near Hwange National Park.  An appropriate end to one less predator.

Another animal-human interaction that made the news:  a young girl was snatched from a Richmond, Vancouver dock by a large California sea lion yesterday.  The girl was perched on the edge of the dock with her back to the water when the sea lion admirers were feeding grabbed her clothes and pulled her into the water. A video shows the on-lookers encouraging the large sea lion to come closer; at one point the little girl leaned over the edge and the animal lunged toward her. Wildlife experts say the sea lion probably thought her white dress was food.   A relative immediately jumped in the water and pulled the girl out.  She was unharmed. The girl and her companions did two things wrong: she turned her back in proximity to the large male animal, and her group was feeding him.  Perhaps a valuable lesson learned.

Friday, May 19, 2017

'Toontime: Prezident Big Mouth

US Person posted previously that he supports Trump's policy of renewed cooperation with the Russians, but this is ridiculous!  His pursed lips may not sink ships, but he is probably making the boys at Langley more than a little nervous.
credit: Taylor Jones
Wakydoodle sez: Yup, reminds me of ol' Nikita Sergeyevitch too!
If Trumpet is in the pay of Vladimir Vladimirovich , as claimed by the House majority leader, he is paying off, big time.  One Senator put the concerns over the Trump Circus more accurately: ....the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline … it creates a worrisome environment."  Cartoonist R.J. Matson put his finger on the button with his reference to the dysfunctional "South Park" character, Cartman:

The significant development this week in the fast-breaking Russian Connection scandal is that the special counsel's probe has move beyond counterintelligence into criminal investigation mode with possible suspects identified.  One of those still works in the White House and is reportedly "close to the President".  All 100 senators were invited to a secure briefing by special counsel Robert Mueller on Thursday.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Putin Pays Trump"

Those are the words used by the House Majority Leader in a private conversation leaked to the press. An explosive allegation to say the least.  WaPo is reporting that Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in a recorded private conversation that he thinks then candidate Donald Trump is the beneficiary of payments from the Russian President along with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a known supporter of the Russian President.  When the comment was disparaged by his interlocutors, he added an oath.  Of course McCarthy's comment could be totally without factual basis--just boys in the locker room blowing off steam--but the fact that a high level politician with access to intelligence information not public made such a damaging assertion an eye-opener.

This fact is established: investigation of the Russian connection is not going away soon regardless of the President's frantic twiting that it is a "witch hunt".  The firing of FBI Director Comey, admittedly over the "Russian thing", is  reminiscent of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. Trump, in conversation with Russian ambassadors, called Comey a "nut job". There is plenty of political animosity in the Deep State to keep the probe moving forward regardless of Trump's attempted obstruction.  After the firing the President made a veiled threat to Comey via his favorite social media outlet, saying he [Comey] "better hope" there are no secret tapes of their conversations at the White House.  Michael Flynn, the former Trump security advisor fired for his unauthorized conversations with the Russian ambassador is not cooperating with the Senate's inquiry, either.  Significantly, a special counsel has now been appointed to oversee the Russian connection investigation.  Will Trumpet survive his first term in office?  The markets are nervous, and Washington is full of long knives, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Subsidizing Cows and Cattlemen

The grazing fee which the federal government charges cattlemen like Cliven Bundy has been reduced even further. The Animal Unit Month is now set at $1.88 per cow and her calf or five sheep, down from the $2.31 charged in the eighties. A wild lands advocate called the fee, "the cheapest all-you-can-eat buffet deal in the country." Two hundred and twenty million acres of public land are used to feed private cattle herds under 22,000 grazing permits. The federal program operates deeply in the red because the fee is based on an archaic formula that undervalues nutrients consumed and damaged caused natural ecosystems by grazing livestock. The fee does not cover range infrastructure such as crossings, ponds, and fencing, or erosion control, or vegetation manipulation or government provided predator control. This tremendous subsidy exists for solely for political reasons unrelated to the economics of stock herding.  It is interesting to note that science has concluded the most damaging food for the global climate is beef.  Methane is the culprit in this instance.

Free predator controls includes killing wolves accused of "depredations". A term of art that makes normal predation sound like a crime of moral turpitude.  Despite reimbursement programs to agriculturalists who loose an occasional cow or sheep, they insist the federal and state governments "managing" remaining wild carnivores who take stock to supplement their wild diet when it is difficult to find or depleted by exterminating them. The USDA's notorious Wildlife Services often uses inhuman means to kill an apex predator that is necessary to a healthy ecosystem. The ethics of these lethal practices are indefensible. Wildlife Services, which receives tax revenue from state governments like Oregon, is simply a killing machine, there is no "service" involved except extermination. This agency has been again sued in Idaho to stop its plans at the behest of Idaho's Department of Fish & Game to exterminate a host of wild animals without assessing the environmental impact of the wholesale slaughter. The slaughter is supposedly to protect the endangered sage grouse, a favorite game bird.

In response to a petition by 19 conservation groups, Wildlife Services did agree to stop using its horrendous and indiscriminate cyanide bomb, M-44, to kill wildlife. The petition was filed in response to the injury of a Poccatello boy and the killing of his dog by the spring loaded device in February 2017. When bitten, the bomb explodes sodium cyanide into the face and nostrils of the investigating animal regardless of its legal status. In its extreme arrogance, the agency did not agree to a total ban, informing the petitioners in its letter that it would condescend to notify them of new M-44s deployed in the state thirty days in advance.

Not only is the agency arrogant in its barbaric 19th century treatment of wildlife, but the interests it serves exhibit the same poor attitude.  The self-proclaimed "owners" of the west received another setback at the hands of a federal judge in Nevada recently. A ruling handed down by US District Judge Gloria Navarro assessed rancher Wayne Hayes $587,294.28 for non-payment of grazing fees on public lands.  The ruling is perhaps the last gasp in an anti-government feud begun by his father decades ago.  Like Cliven Bundy, he adheres to the ridiculous legal position that federal ownership of Nevada land is null and void.  Hayes claimed ownership of state water rights gave him de facto title to surrounding public land.  Judge Navarro strongly rebuked the crackpot legal reasoning by citing Article IV of the federal Constitution which Nevada  endorsed as supreme law when it joined the Union.   Section 3 states, "Congress shall have the power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belong to the United States... nothing [herein] shall be construed so as to Prejudice and Claims of the United States..."  Amen.  You have thirty days to remove your cows, Mr. Hayes.

You have an opportunity to voice your support of wolf conservation in Oregon this Friday when the Department of Fish and Wildlife holds it first Portland public meeting on its draft "wolf management plan".  That plan includes letting the public hunt wolves accused of eating too many elk or taking a rancher's stock.  There is no ethical justification for using lethal means to control wolf populations, which in a better world are self-regulating, let alone allowing the out-of-control Wildlife Services to set off cyanide boobytraps in the back country.  Other countries and states have demonstrated that non-lethal control methods work well if agricultural interests cooperate and human fear dissipated.  Using hunting from which the managing agency obtains revenue as a control method biases the plan toward extermination, not tolerance.   The wolf population has already leveled off in Oregon.  What science shows is that when a carnivore species becomes unprotected as happened to the wolf in eastern Oregon in 2015, human conflicts and stock predation go up.  Just say no to hunting wolves in Oregon.  Public comments begin at 8:00am, Friday, at Embassy Suites PDX, 7900 NE 82nd Avenue, Portland OR.  US Person will see you there!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

COTW: It's Rigged!

Trump told us its rigged, and 'Mericans apparently believed him. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a Marxist to understand that the capitalist economy is built to enrich capitalists. This chart shows that US citizens are just behind Mexicans, Russians and ahead of Germans and English in thinking their economies favor the rich elite:

Infographic: Where People Think the Economy is Rigged | Statista You will find more statistics at Statista. Canada, notably not on the above list, is able to provide universal health coverage for less than it costs per capita for the US to cover only 37 percent of the population eligible for government plans. That is because Canada does not follow the flawed logic of a profit solution for a social service so fundamentally a necessity as healthcare. The profit model introduces inefficiencies into the system. Of the 55 countries Bloomberg assesses in terms of health care efficiency worldwide, the United States is one of the least efficient. Only Jordan, Colombia, Azerbaijan, Brazil and Russia rank lower. The US spends more than double (8%>3%) for health care administration compared to other highly developed countries. So, yes Mildred, the US economy enriches the rich who profit off the unrich.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Oregon Plans to Kill Wolves

Under extreme pressure in states like Wyoming and Idaho where open season has again been declared on the reactionary west's favorite bête noir, the grey wolf, Oregon has been a sanctuary for the beleaguered animal.  USDA's contract with the state to kill unwanted wolves was not a "significant federal action" requiring compliance with federal environmental protection laws ruled a federal judge recently.  Wolves are unprotected in the state east of the Cascades and are "managed" by the state agency.  The state took wolves off the state's protected species law in 2015.   Wolves enjoyed a minor increase in population that has stalled (two more wolves than 2015 for an estimated population of 112), but unfortunately the increases came to the attention of stockmen who demanded action from the state to kill their worst nightmare.  In 2009 the USDA's Wildlife Services killed two Oregon wolves at the behest of ODFW.  The Service used the infamous M-44 cyanide poisoning trap in once case that injured a boy and killed a pet dog in Idaho.

The judge in the federal lawsuit brought by a coalition of wildlife advocates, apparently is not familiar with the science which supports the conclusion that apex predators have a profound impact on ecosystems beyond mere reduction in prey populations or livestock depredations. {11.05.17}  Arguing that because ODFW made the decision to destroy the wolves as part of its management of an federally unprotected species, NEPA does not apply to the actions of a federal agency called in to do the dirty work. Technicalities work wonders in the law.

Under Oregon's proposed plan wolves are classified a "special status game animal" that can be legally hunted or trapped in two situations: chronic livestock depredation in a localized area, and declines in wild ungulate populations, principally deer and elk. The draft plan does not allow a general hunting season, a prohibition that would hold for five years after the plan is adopted.  The draft plan requires three confirmed depredations or one confirmed and four “probable” attacks within a 12 month period. The previous standard was two confirmed depredations or one confirmed and three attempted attacks, with no time period set. These restrictions are not popular with agricultural interests. 

Anti-wolf bills pop up like poison pills in the legislature, which reflects both the depth of animosity for the apex predator in rural areas and the divide between urban and rural public opinion toward wolves.  The draft plan requires three confirmed depredations or one confirmed and four “probable” attacks within a 12 month period. The previous standard was two confirmed depredations or one confirmed and three attempted attacks, with no time period set.   The plan says wolves impact on favorite human prey species, deer and elk, is mixed due to the presence of other large predators.  But the agency is sensitive to revenue raised by selling hunting permits to plain folks eager to kill wildlife, so it seems the days of sanctuary in Oregon may be coming to an end. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

'Toontime: Survival of the Wealthiest

This week saw the passage of a House bill, 2.0, to replace the Affordable Care Act.  Needless to say it's a joke, and even foreign political cartoonists are  lampooning it:

credit: Jos Collignon, de Volksrant, Netherlands
Wackydoodles sez: If 'in he makes out of the stadium, he gets a free cane!

A closer look at the bill reveals that the savings are achieved at the expense of all but eliminating the federal-state Medicaid partnership, raising deductibles and premiums, and eliminating coverage for pre-existing conditions which will be used to give $660 billion worth of tax breaks to the wealthy, insurers, and drug companies. It is pure social Darwinism of the ugliest kind.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the House bill is signed into law, twenty-four million 'Mericans will loose their medical coverage.  Resist here.

credit: Dave Grundland @
BC Idonwanna sez: My doctor more advance--no need snake!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dingoes Improve Soil Quality in Australia

credits: B. Moore
Scientists now know that the presence of apex predators in an ecosystem has a wide ranging and unexpected effects on a living system as a whole. A ground breaking study of wolves in Yellowstone showed that the presence of wolves suppressed browsers and thereby allowed encouraged the growth of mature trees which in turn had a positive effect on life in streams and wetlands.  The latest evidence of the beneficial impact of predators on ecosystems comes from Australia. A study of dingoes (Canus lupis dingo) on both sides of the infamous "dingo fence" [photo] concludes that the extermination of Australia's apex predator has an adverse effect on soil quality because kangaroo populations which feed on vegetation boom in their absence.

The published study by researchers from University of New South Wales looked at dingoes on both sides of the 5600 kilometer fence erected a century ago to keep the wild canines out of eastern Australia. Dingoes were brought to the Australia continent by Asian seafarers 3500-4000 years ago. Dingoes are common in western Australia.  They counted kangaroos and dingoes, collected scats, and tested soil samples for four years.  Overgrazing by kangaroos on the east side of the fence produced soil that was relatively poor in phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon. Their conclusion that the presence of an apex predator that feeds on kangaroos is responsible for richer soil on the western side, is contrary to conventional thinking that predators have no effect on soil health.  The dingoes' trophic cascade is therefore extensive, right down to the presence of soil nutrients.  The study's authors urged a re-think of kangaroo control through the reintroduction of its main predator in areas where there is an overpopulation of the marsupial such as in national parks that are at risk of becoming kangaroo 'farms'.

Another published study of the affects of dingo extermination in eastern Australia shows that the loss of dingoes there contributes to the loss of small mammals who are prey for non-native cats and foxes.  Small mammals, such as the dusky hopping mouse [photo], eat shrub seeds which keeps them under control.  Shrub cover in selected areas of the Strzelecki Desert is 26-48% more dense where the dingo has been exterminated.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chesapeake Bay is Healthier

After one hundred days in office it is unmistakably clear that the Trumpster is no friend of the environment.  From his penchant for building an ecosytem wrecking wall to his slashing of the EPA budget and efforts to revoke previous national monument designations, he is proving his pro-exploitation ideology to "make America great again".  One example of his anti-nature policies is his plan to defund the decades long federal effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay.  The efforts are starting to pay off.  Water ecologists say now is the time to step efforts, not end them, in order to turn the natural system's balance decisively toward complete recovery.  Cleaning Chesapeake Bay is not just a matter of aethetics, either.  It is one of the most productive ecosystems on the East Coast annually producing tons of fish and crustaceans for seafood lovers throughout the US.

Who cares if the Chesapeake is return to health?  Certainly not Donald Trump.  His budget intends to zero out the federal restoration program began in 1983.  Even Ronald Regan declared the Chesapeake, "a national treasure".  Because the Chesapeake estuary borders on several states, and its tributaries--including the heavily polluted Potomac River--drain a sixth of the East Coast, it was agreed early on that the recovery effort should be a federal one [map].  The pollutants entering the bay are complex ranging from human sewage, wastewater run off, manure and chemicals from farm fields, and dirty air blowing across its surface.  The toxic mix degrades water quality through eutrophication--decline in oxygen levels and clarity--to the point that Maryland's lucrative crabbing industry was starting to suffer financially.  Despite the obvious economic contribution the Bay is making to the economies of Virginia and Maryland, it is unlikely they could afford to replace the federal funding of $73 million Trump wants to spend elsewhere.

Fortunately the chances of Trump succeeding in ending the clean up altogether are slim to none.  Some Republican congress members support continuing it.  But other cuts to agencies involved in protecting nature and thereby the public's health are more worrisome to experts.  EPA's budget is to be reduced by 31%, USDA's by 21% and big cuts for the DOI, NOAA, USGS and Corps of Engineers.  Bay restoration involves six states and twelve federal agencies in an admirable example of "collaborative federalism".  In other words, to accomplish his radical agenda, the Donald wants to defund a program that actually works to ameliorate man's heavy burden on the natural world.

Conservationists know it is working because regular water quality monitoring by the USGS shows that it is improving.  The annual "dead zone"  in summer is shrinking and sea grass is returning because of increased clarity.  Commercial fish stocks are increasing.  Oysters once covered the Bay bottom, but are now at 1% of historic levels.  $6.5 billion is being spent to rebuild oyster reefs in ten Chesapeake rivers.  Eight thousand miles of forests and meadows are being replanted to provide natural filters for water entering the bay.  All of these programs and their beneficial results would end if Trump has his way; he vacations in Florida not the Eastern Shore. Congress sets budget priorities, and it a republic they should reflect the greatest good for the greatest number.   A study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says a fully restore Bay would contribute $22 billiion a year to the region's economy.  Build a hotel around that, Mr. Trump!

Monday, May 08, 2017

COTW: Biggest Spender

OK, so you tell US Person the figures and charts about how much the US spends on its military are distorted and biased and only reflect his anti-military, anti-corporate world view.  Try these charts [credit Dan Steinbock] on for size:

Even when the figures are adjusted for population size, the US still comes out at the top, only behind its Mid East ally and client state, Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom spends $2000 per person on its military establishment, while the US spends $1900.  Notice that Russia spends less per capita than Germany, South Korea and the UK.  Over the past decade its military spending has increased by only 6%.  So how can the Trumpster justify a $54 billion dollar (10%) increase in one year for the US military?  He cannot given the current world situation, but the thing about the Donald is that he never lets reality get in his way.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

COTW: The High Corporate Tax Lie

US Person often hears neo-facist apologists claim the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the world at 35%.  That is a true statement has far as it goes, but that is not very far at all.  What the corporatists fail to mention is that the US has one of the lowest effective corporate tax rates in the developed world. The effective rate is the whole story since that is what determines how much revenue is raised.  This chart shows the whole truth:

The US effective corporate tax rate is 25% of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) average at about 13%.  Some very large US corporations earning billions in profit pay no federal taxes due to deductions, deferrals and credits.  Just ask ace businessman Donald Trump, who is enjoying a multi-year tax deferral due to his business losses, or that icon of finance capitalism, Warren Buffet, who is candid enough to admit that high corporate taxes in the US is a lie.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Toontime: The Return of Hillary?

credit: Bob Englehart
The Democrats have a severe problem.  Not as bad as Trumpism, but almost.  The problem is they have no one credible enough to run against Trump in four years, which is saying something about the quality of their leadership.  Obama is history, and too busy enriching himself at the troughs of corporate 'Merica.  The only change he brought about was a reactionary lurch to the left at the end of his two terms and a giant albatross of a health care program that is not living up to its billing.  Obamacare did save the insurance industry from public sector competition, however.  For that he is being richly rewarded. The Obamas have reportedly signed a book deal worth $60-65 million in addition to a $400,000 speaking fee!

Then there is Hillary.  What can US Person say about her that is nice?   She stood by her man?   That was a political calculation from the start.  The fact is Hillary Clinton has no credibility remaining after the campaign of 2016, and worse of all she lost to the Donald, a man the pundits thought was unelectable  That fact demonstrates what her basic problem as a politician is:  she is not believed by the electorate.  Beside that, there is a core constituency between the coasts that will not elect a woman to the presidency.  Sexism, bigotry, misogyny, call it what you will, it exists and even at this late date appears not to be disappearing into the dustbin of history.

Chuck Schummer, the Democratic Senate Minority Leader?  He might has well be wearing a tag on his back that says, "Property of Wall Street"  Bernie Sanders could conceivably run again, but he would be four years older, and many voters thought he was too old to withstand the rigors of the office this time around.  Another touted politician, Elizabeth Warren aka "Pocahontas" , has less of chance of being elected President than 'crooked' Hillary did.  So the Democrats are going to have to do some severe soul searching in the interim and decide if they really want to be the "peoples' party" or just a warmer version of Repugnant plutocracy.

credit: Nate Beeler, Columbus Dispatch
Wackydoodle sez: No, It was the moon phase, sur nuf.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

South African Leopards Declining Rapidly

Mafana, credit US PERSON
A new study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal concludes that leopards (Panthera pardus) living in South Africa's Soutspanberg Moutains are declining at a rate of 44% between 2012 and 2016.  South African declared a ban on leopard hunting due to concern for their survival amid mismanagement of trophy hunting and poaching for their spotted fur.  The authors argue that the ban should not be lifted in areas were leopard numbers are in decline more rapidly than previously thought.  A team from Durham University in UK performed the four year survey using 23 camera traps in the Soutspanberg, one of the last leopard strongholds in Africa.  The alarming decline of two-thirds of the population cannot be sustained, and leopards will disappear from the area by 2020 concludes Dr. Samuel Williams, the lead author.  Even more than trophy hunting, called "a luxury that cannot be afforded", Dr. Williams thinks illegal retaliatory killings by stock herders is taking a heavier toll on leopards living outside unprotected areas.  Of eight adult leopards fitted with GPS collars in the study, six died from human retaliation for fear of livestock losses.  Leopards have lost 80% of their historic range in South Africa.  Close to seventy percent of remaining leopard habitat is outside of protected areas.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Single Payer Bill Advances in California

Single-payer health insurance aka, socialized medicine, has no chance of being passed at the federal level as long as Repugnants are in charge of Congress.  But if you consider the Canadian experience, there is a glimmer of hope for those 'Mericans who now support a similar system in the US.  Canada's successful single payer system began in Saskatchewan province and evolved nationwide since 1962.  The Canadian birth had its associated pain; an unsuccessful three week doctor strike ensued passage of the provincial system. Now, California is leading the way to a US government provided health care system.  The state's Senate health committee voted last Wednesday to forward a proposal to eliminate private health insurance and replace it with a government funded system to the appropriations committee.  The bill is supported by the powerful California Nurses Association, but opposed by an equally powerful business lobby.  Support for a single payer system has been growing, especially since the Trump administration has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  So far those efforts have failed miserably, despite widespread dissatisfaction with its inability to control health care costs.

Once again, as it did when the legislative effort to pass "Obamacare" was underway in Congress, industry groups are pouring money into politicians' coffers to prevent passage of socialized medicine in California.  Twenty-four  California legislators who sit on the committees that will consider the bill have collectively received $819,000 in donations.  That includes $80,000 given to the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly health committees.  When Colorado considered Amendment 69 to provide a statewide health care system last year, Opponents raised more than $4 million, nearly five times what supporters brought in.

California Democratic Senators, Toni Atkins, who serves on the Senate health committee, and Ricardo Lara introduced the “Healthy California Act“ in February. The legislation would guarantee coverage to all California residents and implement a “comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system,” while ensuring that members “shall not be required to pay any premium, co-payment, co-insurance, deductible, and any other form of cost sharing for all covered benefits.”  A representative of the nurses union called the bill a model for the rest of the nation to follow.  Its not the first time a single payer bill has received serious consideration by the California legislature.  Former Governor 'Muscles' Schwarzenegger vetoed similar single payer plans in 2006 and 2008.  If you build it, they will come California.