August 21, 2014

We may live in a republic here in the US, but sadly we may losing our monarchs, all of them. Here’s the sordid tale from the “National Geographic.” Industrial farming run rampant. BTW, the US expects a record corn crop this year. Hot news for the ethanol crowd.


August 19, 2014

Tired of life? Get thee to Saint Louis. Police there apparently kill on demand. Today two officers shot dead a black man who allegedly yelled at them, “Shoot me now…” They obliged. He died.
Actually, might not work unless you’re black.


August 17, 2014

“I sure hope hell has wheels, I’m tired of riding in a hand basket.”
That’s the bumper-sticker that carries a widely held sentiment of our troubled times. Aren’t most times troubled? If you have paid attention to any of the many centennial observations being posted and written about the start of World Ear I, you know we are not in a uniquely violent time. In fact BIG wars are in short supply right now. We may be setting world records of displaced persons however. Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Sudan, Central African Republic (hah!), Nigeria, Congo (always), what was once Somalia, Honduras, El Salvador, Libya, ebola in West Africa (for now). The population of people displaced by war, famine, political violence, ethnic attacks and natural disasters (thanks for all that CO2,folks) is in the many millions.
Here in the USA we are reaping the rewards of two decades of police militarization. My only question about Ferguson–where the hell are the town’s mayor and city council? On the city website it appears that at least 4 of the six council members are white in a town with a huge black majority. Colonial rule at home, wonderful. of course, we Americans are rightly known the world over for hair trigger violence, mass murderers and a gun under every bed. Would even more weapons and more guns make Ferguson a better place? Just wait’ll police have lethal drones and have only to use CCTV and radar to kill a miscreant at a distance. Real law and order then.
Actually, I have another question about Ferguson. Let’s say that dead teenager really did all those horrid things the police allege…threaten a clerk and steal some cigars. Not even in Missouri, the redneck state from which I escaped decades ago, would make that a capital crime. His real crime in the eyes of the policeman: being young and black.
So while humans torture and kill other humans, still more humans have more babies and we over-populate our planet so there’ll be more unemployed teenagers (esp. in nations which don’t allow women’s rights and birth control) and more political unrest and revolution and violence and ethnic hatred and those goodies that we see parading in public like we haven;t seen since the end of World War II.


August 1, 2014

Because we do not really know what the frack we’re doing to the planet. But who cares as long as gas and profits keep flowing. Salamanders can’t sue, so to hell with ‘em.


MADISON, Wis. – As production of shale gas soars, the industry’s effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on Aug. 1.

The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents.

“We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife,” says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents.”

The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well. A similar technique is used for extracting oil from “tight” geologic formations.

The chemical makeup of fracturing fluid and wastewater, which can include carcinogens and radioactive substances, is often unknown. The authors reviewed chemical disclosure statements for 150 wells in three top gas-producing states and found that, on average, two out of three wells were fractured with at least one undisclosed chemical.

Pressured by growing concern about pollution to groundwater and surface water, government and the industry have made some steps toward openness, Souther acknowledges, but she says more progress is needed.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website is one of the nation’s best sources of publicly available information on spills of fracking fluid, wastewater, and other contaminants. Even so, gas companies failed to report over one third of spills in the last year,” she says. “How many more unreported spills occurred, but were not detected during well inspections? We need accurate data on the release of fracturing chemicals into the environment before we can understand impacts to plants and animals.”

One of the greatest threats to animal and plant life identified in the study is the cumulative impact of rapid, widespread shale development, with each individual well contributing collectively to air, water, noise and light pollution.

“The past has taught us that environmental impacts of large-scale development and resource extraction, whether coal plants, large dams or biofuel monocultures, are more than the sum of their parts,” notes Morgan Tingley, a researcher from University of Connecticut. “We can’t let shale development outpace our understanding of its environmental impacts.”

“If you look down on a heavily fracked landscape,” Souther says, “you see a web of well pads, access roads, and pipelines creating islands out of what was, in some cases, continuous habitat. What are the combined effects of numerous wells and their supporting infrastructure on wide-ranging or sensitive species, like the pronghorn antelope or the hellbender salamander?

“I am from West Virginia, which is underlain by one of the largest shale gas reservoirs in the U.S. However, this industry doesn’t just impact gas-producing states. Here in Wisconsin, shale development is affecting areas that supply sand for use in hydraulic fracturing.”

The study looked broadly at what is known — and what is not — about the conservation impacts of fracking. “Some of the wells in the chemical disclosure registry were fractured with fluid containing 20 or more undisclosed chemicals,” says co-author Kimberly Terrell, a researcher at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “This is an arbitrary and inconsistent standard of chemical disclosure.”

With shale gas production projected to increase exponentially over the next 30 years, the authors hope the study will guide the application of limited scientific resources to the most important questions, and enhance cooperation among scientists, industry and policymakers to minimize damage to the natural world.

The authors are all David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellows, a project established by the Cedar Tree Foundation and the Society for Conservation Biology. Souther has been a research fellow at UW-Madison for three years. In September, she will begin a professorship at West Virginia Wesleyan College in West Virginia


July 14, 2014

Sure, Citigroup today agreed to settle their rotten mortgage case with the feds and state attorneys general. And it’s going to be a big chunk of cash: $7-billion. Some of that may actually make it back into the pockets of the investors they knowingly scammed into investing in toxic home loans.
What’s critical is what isn’t in the settlement which must still get court approval, of course. There is nothing to prevent Citigroup from simply raising costs to its customers. There is almost zero chance that this settlement will lower one bank exec’s bonuses by one cent, or even cost shareholders a single pence on their dividends. The payers will ultimately be the mass of customers who have been slow and apathetic enough to stick with Citibank. Too inconvenient, account tied to a credit card, etc. etc. etc. Banks, like cell phone companies, have found all kinds of ways to be sticky, making it a royal pain to move your account…all those automatic deposits and payments, yada, yada, yada.
There is nothing in the settlement that requires Citi to take any money away from bonus pools or dividends or even consultant fees or lawyers’ fees or travel budgets or company holiday parties…or any of the stuff the bank biz expects by divine right.
The stock market sees the settlement as a good thing. Nobody that matters really pays. Citi stock is up today and the market itself followed suit. Whoopee. Got off the hook, again.
One analysis points out Citi has made over $74 billion in the past four quarters and it will take just over a month for the corporation to generate enough cash to pay off the $7-bil in bills. One bright spot, the federal portion of the settlement is NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE!


July 11, 2014

I think the Republican Party has gotta double-down on the horrors of Obamacare. The percentage of uninsured Americans is plummeting. People need to edycated away from buying insurance. This is getting awfuller by the day. Next thing you know all the deadbeats, the horrid 47%, will be checking into hospitals just so they won’t have to look for work. Read here about how more and more folks are getting health insurance.
Disaster. As soon as folks know they can get run over and then get hospital treatment, they’ll start walking in front of buses like those bums do in all those socialist countries in Europe…and up in Canada. And if you think gun violence is outta control now, wait’ll all those unarmed dummies in kindergartens and movie theatres realize they’ll get ambulance service and treatment for wounds…they’ll start jumping in front of madmen with assault rifles. Oh god, death of the American Way of Life. Wait’ll insurance companies start paying for medical marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. Ohmigqawd!
Anybody watching the stock price of the big medical conglomerates? Stratosphere here we come.


July 10, 2014

To any of us who toiled in the money=strewn landscape of TV news, this all rings oh so true.


July 10, 2014

Marx was wrong. It is not religion that keeps the masses sedated. Look at Muslim jihadists in the Mideast. Not too sedate regardless of how wrong-headed they may be. Their religion doesn’t keep them calm by any means. I’m afraid old Marx couldn’t see beyond the mild forms of Catholicism and Anglicanism of his century.
Today it is opiates that are the opiate of the people. Here’s a gut-wrenching story from NPR on how we drug our soldiers and send them off to war. One crucial part of this story that is not delved into by the polite folks at NPR: how this massive use of opiates relates to the continued “drug war” and efforts to keep non-prescription drugs out of public use. If marijuana became the number 1 legal form of painkiller in America think of the billions of dollars the big drug makers would lose.


July 6, 2014

Over at they are running a long essay on the current malaise in America: the fear of real political conflict. And the author goes on to say we must clash now or simply let the wave of impending disasters wash us out to the metaphorical sea. This is a nation and fought and died in the millions over slavery…where union and union-haters fought bloody battles and assassinated one another for decades…where racist lynch mobs and civil rights proponents where so far apart it was hard to imagine them living in the same nation…where governors proudly stood in the way of school integration…where fanatics still tell one another that the murder of abortion providers is doing god’s work.
Of course, dealing with climate change and the increasing wealth gap will be nasty and messy. It has to be. People in the aggregate build things that are often nasty and messy. Just take a slow walk through our history on this planet. Sure we can do art and generosity, but we often do mayhem and massacre. Worse than that, we do ignoring reality really well. Let’s rebuild our flood or hurricane damaged cities right where they were before.
I agree with the Politico essay’s author that we are not more divided than ever before but we are less likely to cope with the issues facing us that require serious action. The forces that favor easy-going, protection of the status quo include our elected officials, their donors and handlers, anything connected with Wall Street and our major industries from fracking to Internet to retail. Don’t rock the boat, don’t get excited, don’t rattle the markets. Doesn’t the majority of Americans realize that our impending disasters can’t be bought off, postponed or ignored? Doesn’t look like it.
The NYT today has an interesting opinion piece on how we may have to get pro-active if we want to protect some of our precious natural resources. The old hope of letting nature run her course has been detoured by our inadvertent fiddling with the global climate and what it means for precious things from giant sequoia to tiny coral organisms. You can read that essay here.
Since the halcyon days of President Teddy Roosevelt, we have led the league in conservation and protecting nature. We should continue to do so. There are two phases of human activity where the U.S. is still proudly #1: tech innovation and protection of wild and undeveloped lands. We need to value the latter as much as the former.
I’m afraid we’re doomed to ignore our problems until they explode. Our whole system now is built on money as the crucial measure. Can we put a monetary value to a grove of sequoia that can’t be cut down for lumber? Or seeing a sage grouse that on its lek? Or knowing that wolves can at least range freely over a tiny fraction of the land they once ruled? There are powerful forces that would argue those things have little economic worth and thus little worth that matters. There are forces that would argue any creature or natural boundary that impinges on our comfort or commerce should be killed. Our system tends to practice capital punishment on any bear, wolf, lion or tree that “gets in the way.” One of our neighbors recently took down several century-old oaks so he could clear a lot and put in on the market. The American free enterprise system at work.
Second we need to realize that economic growth is not a positive idea as we practice it now…it is destructive of our only known habitable planet. Not even the richest can find another place to go when their security gates start to melt in the heat (metaphorically speaking).


July 5, 2014

One Seattle billionaire is suggesting his fellow plutocrats should get smart…or get forked. As in pitch-forked. You can reed the screed here.

He’s right of course. Anything that can’t go forever, won’t. Rising home prices, rising stock prices, more steroids and more home runs each year. Huge wealth gap. Open ended overseas occupations. Empires. Dictatorships. How many dictators get to retire on the job. Franco was lucky. So how long can billionaires ignore the rest of the planet and pretend global warming and social upheaval and revolution is just somebody else’s problem?

I actually wish the Koch Brothers were thirty years younger so they could be around as the globe’s violence and hunger and climate change begin to take an ever-larger toll ever closer to Houston and Wall Street.


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