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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 31,429

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

SeaWorld killer whale ban elicits heated debate

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban SeaWorld from using killer whales in any of its California shows and dismantle the San Diego theme park's captive breeding program.

The bill will be heard in an Assembly committee Tuesday, as activists from both sides testify on the intensely lobbied legislation.

The idea for AB2140 by Santa Monica Democrat Richard Bloom was sparked by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which questions whether killer whales - also known as orcas - should be kept in captivity and highlights the injuries and deaths to trainers who have worked with the animals.

The bill would also ban the import or export of orcas in the state and requires the 10 orcas currently at SeaWorld's San Diego site to be on display in larger "sea pens" if available.



The Richest Rich Are in a Class by Themselves

The rallying cry of the Occupy Movement was that the richest 1 percent of Americans is getting richer while the rest of us struggle to get by. That’s not quite right, though. The bottom nine-tenths of the 1 Percent club have about the same slice of the national wealth pie that they had a generation ago. The gains have accrued almost exclusively to the top tenth of 1 Percenters. The richest 0.1 percent of the American population has rebuilt its share of wealth back to where it was in the Roaring Twenties. And the richest 0.01 percent’s share has grown even more rapidly, quadrupling since the eve of the Reagan Revolution.

These figures come out of a clever analysis by economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics, who is a visiting professor at Berkeley. The Internal Revenue Service asks about income, not wealth, which is the market value of real estate, stocks, bonds, and other assets. Saez and Zucman were able to deduce wealth by exploiting IRS data going back to when the federal income tax was instituted in 1913. They figured out how much property different strata of society owned by looking at the income that was generated by that property, such as dividends and capital gains. To simplify, if a family reported $1 million in rental income one year and the market rate of return on rental properties was 10 percent, then Saez and Zucman concluded that the family must have owned property worth $10 million.

The message for strivers is that if you want to be very, very rich, start out very rich. The threshold for being in the top 0.1 percent of tax filers in 2012 was wealth of about $20 million. To be in the top 0.01 percent—that’s the 1 Percent club’s 1 Percent club—required net worth of $100 million. Of course, even $100 million is a pittance to Bill Gates, whose net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, is nearly 800 times that.



Let's Just Get Rid Of The DEA Already

During an April 3 Senate subcommittee meeting on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s budget, Michele Leonhart, the head of the DEA, reaffirmed her commitment to stopping the movement for legal marijuana from going any further—and her commitment to using any excuse she can possibly find to justify her agency's existence.

Leonhart has previously trashed her boss Barack Obama for letting Colorado and Washington state proceed with selling pot for recreational purposes. She also took issue with Obama’s line about pot being no worse than alcohol (an accurate thing to say, though it rings hypocritical given the ongoing war on drugs his administration is fighting).

But at last week’s hearing, Leonhart upped her game and verbally wrung her hands about an odd victim of the war on drugs: dogs. Yes, as USA Today cautioned in March, dogs can get sick and even die if they consume marijuana edibles. Dogs can also die from eating chocolate or getting hit by cars or getting shot by police officers, yet we never hear any noise about banning those things. Leonhart’s won’t-someone-PLEASE-think-of-the-fluffy-puppies plea makes it seem as if she truly is running on empty, argument-wise.

But she’s not done, nor is the rest of the DEA. Leonart and her agents were not disheartened by the legalization of weed in Colorado and Washington state. “Actually, it makes us fight harder,” she said at the hearing, before fretting that parents would be teaching their teens that pot isn’t so bad.



The war against American citizens

In 1971, before becoming a Supreme Court justice, Lewis F. Powell Jr. penned a memo to his friend Eugene Sydnor of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce advocating a comprehensive strategy in favor of corporate interests. Powell wrote, “Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.”

In last week’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission , the Supreme Court was not a mere instrument so much as a blowtorch, searing a hole in the fabric of our fragile democracy.

This predictable decision from the 1 Percent Court to repeal federal limits on overall individual campaign contributions overturns nearly 40 years of campaign finance law.

It also completes a trifecta of rulings that started in 1976 with Buckley v. Valeo, and the Midas touch of judicial malpractice, turning money into speech. As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in an impassioned dissent to McCutcheon, taken together with the 2010 ruling in Citizens United, “today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

This, foreshadowed in Powell’s decades-old memo, has always been the right’s plan — to shift the system in favor of the wealthy and powerful. Put it this way: If the limit hadn’t existed in 2012, the 1,219 biggest donors could have given more money than over 4 million small donors to the Obama and Romney campaigns — combined.



Sanders To Test The Political Waters In New Hampshire

Sen. Bernie Sanders will travel to New Hampshire this weekend, following a path used by many presidential candidates over the past 25 years.

Sanders plans to make multiple trips to the state that holds the nation’s first presidential primary.

On Saturday, he will hold a Town Meeting at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. The college has become an important campaign stopping point for presidential candidates over the years.

Sanders says he’s definitely exploring the possibility of running for president in 2016 and he says he’s going to New Hampshire to see if his political message is popular outside of Vermont.

“It’s a way for me, you know I’ve never done this before obviously, to hear what people have to say. I have an agenda which people in Vermont are familiar with,” said Sanders. “But most people around the country are not familiar with and I want to hear people’s input: do they share my feelings. And this is an opportunity to do that in New Hampshire.”



The Transformation of a Company Town: St. Marys


Derelict former site of the Gilman Paper Company plant, in St. Marys, Georgia. (James Fallows)
Last week I mentioned the very impressive "career technical" high school my wife and I had visited in Camden County, on the Georgia coast just north of Florida. Now, some of the background on why the changes in this area have been more striking to us than in many other places we have visited.

The picture at the top of this post shows the ruins of the Gilman Paper Company, in the coastal Camden County town of St. Marys. "Ruins" is the only possible term. Back in the early 1970s, when a young Jimmy Carter was running for governor of Georgia, Gilman was a fearsome political force in the state and essentially the only employer for many miles around. "Gilman Paper Company is the only major Georgia industry south of Brunswick and east of Waycross," that manager said in a speech around that time. "It can safely be stated that not less than 75 percent of the economy of Camden County is directly dependent on Gilman Paper Company." The picture below, from a Harper's article about St. Marys in 1972, is the same site as in the shot above, when the mill was running full-tilt and employing most of the working-age people in town.

Back at that same time, when I was just out of college and my soon-to-be wife had a year still to go, we were -- along with my sister and half a dozen other contemporaries -- part of a Ralph Nader team dispatched to write about pollution, tax evasion, economic peonage, and other aspects of company-town life in now-hyper-stylish Savannah and other paper-mill towns in Georgia. The result was this book.

St. Marys was the most bleakly Dickensian of the places we visited. The mill paid good wages, in exchange for all-encompassing political and social control. Its corporate attorney was also the State Representative, and was the county attorney too; the result in tax policy and environmental regulation was predictable. The mill's manager was the local Big Man. The company's owners -- the Gilman brothers of Manhattan -- lived an art-patron life far removed from the harshness of their family's company town. In the past few years, whenever I have gone to brutal, polluted, boss-run factory towns in remote China, I have thought back to St. Marys. It wasn't that long ago that China's current reality was tolerated in the U.S.



Using the 'Top Secret' Stamp to Hide Lies and War Crimes


Is America's classification system legitimate? When leakers subvert it, should citizens cheer or condemn them? State secrets kept by the U.S. government have been under attack, most famously by Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden. Tens of millions of Americans defend at least some of their revelations, illegal or not—to the consternation of national-security-state officials and their allies, who have responded by defending America's classification system.

For the Obama Administration, this has meant an unprecedented effort to punish leaks it didn't opportunistically order with criminal inquiries and prosecutions. Some members of Congress have taken to denouncing leakers as traitors. And at venues like Lawfare, a group blog for the national-security establishment, the customary argument is that "the United States has the most expensive, elaborate, and multi-tiered intelligence oversight apparatus of any nation on Earth." There's no need for illegal leaks. Existing oversight is adequate.

But is it?

A lot of people think that the fight over the CIA-torture report suggests otherwise—that it shows an obvious, absurd flaw in way our government decides what information ought to be public, and that new leaks would be justified to remedy that flaw.

I find it hard not to agree.



Tuesday Toon Roundup 4- The Rest

Ft. Hood








Tuesday Toon Roundup 3- Voters, Economy and Environment




Tuesday Toon Roundup 2- Repubs and Shrub



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