Defending Becky Quick against liars

CNBC’s Becky Quick has come in for some criticism for being unprepared during Wednesday’s debate. To refresh your memory, here’s what happened during an exchange with Donald Trump:

QUICK: You had talked a little bit about Marco Rubio. I think you called him “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator” because he was in favor of the H1B.

TRUMP: I never said that. I never said that.

….QUICK: My apologies. I’m sorry.

In fact, Trump had said that in his own immigration plan. Why didn’t Quick know this?

I think we all know what happened here. Someone on Quick’s staff prepared some notes that included the quote, but didn’t specify where it came from. So when Trump denied saying it, Quick was stuck.

…The real problem is that Quick was unprepared for bald-faced lying. She expected Trump to spin or tap dance or try to explain away what he said. She didn’t expect him to just flatly deny ever saying it. That’s the only circumstance that would require her to know exactly where the quote came from.

This was a real epidemic on Wednesday night.,,They can just baldly lie. Trump did it. Rubio did it. Carson did it. Fiorina did it. They know that time is short and they probably won’t get called on it. The worst that will happen is that fact checkers will correct them in the morning, but only a tiny fraction of the viewing audience will ever see it…

…Modern candidates understand that they don’t need to bother with spin and exaggeration any more. They can just lie, and etiquette limits how much debate moderators can push back. I don’t think debate etiquette is going to change, so this probably means that moderators are going to have to learn to ask questions a little differently. We live in a new era.

I wouldn’t say modern candidates – I would say mostly rightwing candidates. They’re accustomed to lying about damned near everything. They have to in order to sustain the pretense of value in ideology which as a fundamental rule rejects science, history and economics. This is what passes for conservatism in the years of Imperial America in global decline.

As it stands at the time of posting this – the Republican candidates are preparing to meet to end even the pretense of debate, leading questions. Three moderators from a conservative business network are considered too combative for the Republican softball team. Journalism be damned. Even in the age of news-as-entertainment.

The Tea Party is advancing their putsch, simply taking over the Republican Party. Bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers and scumbags like Dick Armey, they needn’t rely on beerhall drunks and déclassé unemployed workers — churchgoers with guns will do the job for them.

Twig towers and wattle fences – it’s time to prepare for next spring

Pruning season is here, which means that many of us will quickly accumulate a small mountain of superfluous sticks. At my house, many pruned branches are given a second life as woven wattle fences, plant supports, and twig towers for growing vines in containers. If you’ve itched to make natural structures for your garden, pruning season is the best time to try.

Expect to be successful, because you will be practicing a building art used in tree-rich terrains around the world for more than 6,000 years. Today, exercising your creative muscles by weaving wood into fences, trellises or other plant supports will result in beautiful, functional items for your garden that are free for the making.

Hardwood trees produce stiff wood that is difficult to bend, but small, straight pieces of any wood can be used for posts…For the horizontals I used the longest sprouts saved from apple pruning.

Indeed, it has been my experience that as long as the sprouts or whips are only one year old, even maple makes a good wood for weaving when used fresh. The peas in a planter…were supported by hoops and stakes provided by a maple stump that produced a flush of sprouts every year. Rather than curse them, I put them to good use…

Willows used for basket-making (Salix purpurea and other Salix species) are quite pliable after the osiers (long, slender sticks) have been soaked in water for a few hours. I grow a few basketry willows myself, and they have proven to be very low-care plants that produce an abundance of rods and osiers for making twig towers…If you have plenty of material, willow sculpture is a possibility for ambitious weavers of wood.

One of the best things about willow is that you can harvest, sort and store the branches in a dry place, so they are ready to use in any season. A long soak in water is required to restore their pliability, but having a store of willow on hand makes it possible to craft natural garden structures in any season of the year…

But why not start small? Put a few small sticks to work as wickets to protect plants from accidental injury. Tie together pruned grape vines to make a rustic wreath. Next thing you know, you will be making one-of-a-kind natural structures for your garden that work as good as they look.

RTFA for Barbara Pleasant’s suggestions of projects within the capability of beginners. Frankly, I’m inspired. Living alongside the bosque of the Santa Fe River we have sufficient materials at hand to build a replacement for the Empire State Building — of willow twigs. 🙂

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Autumn 2015 — from around the world

Bosque Apache New-Mexico
Click to enlargeFlickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Throw on a scarf and grab your cider; it’s time to embark on a far-reaching fall foliage tour. From Scotland to Russia, Canada to Iceland, and (of course) the United States’ New England region, here are some of the most lush shots of fall 2015 we have come across.

Click through to some lovely photos – and a video explanation of the colors of autumn.

CEO retirement savings: Top 100 = what 41% of US families have

The retirement savings accumulated by just 100 chief executives are equal to the entire retirement accounts of 41 percent of U.S. families — or more than 116 million people…

In a report, the Center for Effective Government and Institute for Policy Studies found that the 100 largest chief executive retirement funds are worth an average of about $49.3 million per executive, or a combined $4.9 billion. David C. Novak, the recently departed chief executive officer of Yum! Brands Inc., is at the top of the list, with total retirement savings of $234.2 million.

In recent years, pay and income inequality across different income groups have received increasing attention in the U.S. Significantly less attention has been focused on the growing gulf in retirement savings, a lack of focus that the study’s authors say they are attempting to address.

“This CEO-to-worker retirement gap is a lot bigger than the pay gap and one more indicator of the extreme level of inequality that is really tearing the country apart,” said Sarah Anderson, the report’s co-author…

Some of the chief executives with the biggest retirement stashes are at companies that have cut retirement benefits for new employees.

For many chief executives, the bulk of their pay often used for retirement comes from deferred compensation plans that permit executives to set aside salaries and bonuses on a pretax basis, with no limits. Lower-paid employees with 401(k) accounts can only set aside $18,000 a year and an additional $5,000 if they’re 50 or older. Many companies offer different investment options to executives for their deferred compensation plans than those offered to 401(k) participants.

In addition to deferred compensation plans, about 30 percent of Fortune 1000 companies in 2013 offered supplemental executive retirement plans, usually calculated by multiplying years of service and the average pay earned during executives’ final years of service.

The report’s authors called for a number of policy changes, including applying to executive compensation plans the same annual contribution limits that cover 401(k) plans and preventing companies from deducting from their taxes contributions to executive pension plans if the employee pensions have been frozen.

You won’t find this discussed in any of the Republican so-called debates. They’re idea of entitlement “reform” is taking social security, medicare and medicaid benefits away from workingclass families.

The Democrat so-called debates? Well, Bernie might bring it up. So might Larry Lessig.

RTFA for a few individual examples of pampered executives.

Here goes Apple pissing off the NSA again

Apple has opened its Security Framework and Common Crypto libraries to developers, hoping to foster tighter levels of security in third-party apps.

The Security Framework is used in iOS and OS X for managing keys, certificates, and trust policies, including storing the first two in the platforms’ keychains. Common Crypto is tied to functions like symmetric encryption, hash-based message authentication codes, and digests. The pair both depend on a shared library known as corecrypto…

The company is typically slow to publish the source code for open-source components in its software. It has yet to do so for OS X El Capitan for instance, and while its Swift programming language is due to become open-source, that will only happen sometime before the end of 2015.

Security though is an important issue for Apple in light of growing privacy and malware threats. The company previously marketed its devices as virtually immune to malware, but both iOS and OS X have come under increasing levels of attack.

Plus, the inevitable whining from the Homeland Insecurity crowd. They’re going to get their knickers in a bunch over Apple helping developers with tighter encryption.

Warming waters are a new factor in the collapse of New England cod fishery


Zach Whitener, research associate at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute

For centuries, cod were the backbone of New England’s fisheries and a key species in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Today, cod stocks are on the verge of collapse, hovering at 3-4% of sustainable levels. Even cuts to the fishery have failed to slow this rapid decline, surprising both fishermen and fisheries managers. For the first time, a new report in Science explains why. It shows that the cod collapse is in large part due to rapid warming of the ocean in the Gulf of Maine — 99 percent faster than anywhere else on the planet.

The rapid warming is linked to changes in the position of the Gulf Stream and to climate oscillations in the Atlantic and the Pacific. These factors add to the steady pace of warming caused by global climate change. In the face of already depleted cod stocks, fisheries managers in 2010 had placed a series of restrictions on harvesting this key Gulf of Maine species, but even strict quota limits on fishermen failed to help cod rebound…

Andrew Pershing and colleagues…found that increasing water temperatures reduce the number of new cod produced by spawning females. Their study also suggests that warming waters led to fewer young fish surviving to adulthood.

The models used by managers over the last decade to set the quotas for cod did not account for the impact of rising temperatures, leading to quotas that were too high. Fishermen stayed within their quotas, but still took more fish than the population could sustain.

“This creates a frustrating situation that contributes to mistrust between fishermen, scientists, and managers,” says Pershing. “The first step toward adapting fisheries to a changing climate is recognizing that warming impacts fish populations.”…

The study shows the risk of not including temperature in fisheries models, especially for stocks like Gulf of Maine cod that are at the edge of their range. The warmer our climate gets, the less fisheries managers can rely on historical data.

It’s as simple as that. Unique geography, offshore as well as onshore, alters responses to changing factors. A factor never previously much of a consideration – like water temperature – becomes important when the change provokes a new response. In this case, reducing the number of new cod from spawning females. And perhaps more problems further down the road.

Sad, but, true. I grew up subsistence fishing along the southern New England coast. I still have kin all the way north to Prince Edward Isle – and fishing is still an important part of life and local economy. They’re mostly not cod fisherfolk. But, warming waters ain’t going to make North Atlantic lobsters very happy either.

There’s also a more personalized story over here.

Chevron’s star witness busted for perjury

In March of last year, California-based oil giant Chevron hailed a sweeping victory in a two-decade long legal battle in the Ecuadorean Amazon. A New York federal judge, Lewis Kaplan, ruled that a $9.5 billion Lago Agrio judgment leveled against the company by the small Andean country’s highest court, was obtained by way of fraud and coercion.

In his decision, based on violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the judge found that the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steven Donziger, committed mail fraud, engaged in coercion, and paid bribes in order to win judgment against Texaco, which Chevron brought in 2001.

The case largely hung on Chevron’s star witness, Alberto Guerra, a former Ecuadorean judge who has admitted to receiving substantial amounts of money and other benefits to cooperate with Chevron. In New York, Guerra testified that he had struck a deal between the plaintiffs and the presiding judge, Nicolas Zambrano: Guerra would ghostwrite the verdict, Zambrano would sign it, and the two would share an alleged $500,000 in kickbacks from the plaintiffs.

In the RICO case ruling, Judge Kaplan stated that the “evidence leads to one conclusion: Guerra told the truth regarding the bribe and the essential fact as to who wrote the Judgment.”

But in testimony given before the international tribunal, released today by the government of Ecuador and provided to VICE News in advance, Guerra has now admitted that there is no evidence to corroborate allegations of a bribe or a ghostwritten judgment, and that large parts of his sworn testimony, used by Kaplan in the RICO case to block enforcement of the ruling against Chevron, were exaggerated and, in other cases, simply not true.

For those who have followed the case closely, including the environmental group Amazon Watch, Guerra’s admissions could amount to “game over” for Chevron, whose star witness has admitted to lying under oath and who has produced no evidence of the allegations that Chevron used to discredit the Ecuadorean ruling.

RTFA for a long, corrupt tale of a crew of scumbags. From pollution to depredation, perjury to bribery, Chevron hasn’t left out too many criminal acts.

Snowden praises EU parliament vote for sanctuary against US extradition

Edward Snowden on Thursday hailed as “extraordinary” and a “game-changer” a vote in the European parliament calling on member states to prevent his extradition to the US.

The parliament voted 285-281 to pass a largely symbolic measure, a resolution that called on European Union member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistleblower and international human rights defender”…

The European parliament is a directly elected legislature with members from all 28 EU member states. Its legislative authority is limited. The resolution amounted to a request that member states reject attempts by the US to arrest and prosecute Snowden.

“This is not a blow against the US government, but an open hand extended by friends,” Snowden tweeted. “It is a chance to move forward.”

The US government did not, however, seem to see it that way…

While the US has promised Snowden due process, it has charged him under the Espionage Act of 1917, which forbids the disclosure of state secrets and which would not allow Snowden to argue in his defense that his disclosures had a public benefit.

“We welcome today’s decision of the European parliament recognizing Edward Snowden as a human rights defender and calling upon member states to grant him protection from prosecution,” Wolfgang Kaleck, Snowden’s lawyer in Berlin, said in an email.

“It is an overdue step and we urge the member states to act now to implement the resolution.”

Nice to see there are some politicians in the Western world willing to stand up to the Beltway bullies in the United States. The mentality, the proto-fascist ideology that somehow designates the United States as cops of the world, superseding any defense of constitutional freedoms is lodged just as thoroughly in the DNA of liberal Democrats as Republican conservatives – both the Wall Street flavor or pea-brained Confederates.

Coal$ suck so bad one producer is paying to skip export shipments


In case you forgot what an empty coal car looks like

American coal producer Cloud Peak Energy has agreed to pay quarterly fees to a Canadian port owner to avoid sending more exports abroad amid a slump in Asian demand and a stronger U.S. dollar.

Cloud Peak Energy is making the payments to Westshore Terminals Investment Corp. to cut the amount of coal it’s obligated to export from Westshore’s port in British Columbia from 2016 to 2018…Westshore said it expects its 2016 coal volumes to be 13 percent below previous estimates because of its amended agreement with Cloud Peak.

The arrangement comes as U.S. coal miners face their worst market downturn in decades. Mounting environmental regulations, cheap natural gas and a stronger U.S. dollar are all shrinking demand for their supplies abroad.

China has cut coal imports 36% so far this year. A significant positive change for their air quality. A significant negative change in the wallet for coal producers. Both good news.

The U.S. will export 77 million tons of coal in 2015, down 39 percent from a record 125.7 million in 2012 and the lowest since 2009, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a forecast on Oct. 6…

In case you wondered if the activity in recent years on behalf of cleaner industry, cleaner electricity, alternative energy sources, was having a positive effect. One of the best gauges of effectiveness is how much whining we hear from fossil fuel creeps facing lowered profits.

Next round? Republican Party and Blue Dog Democrats increase their sudden concern for jobs. Ain’t it amazing they never notice folks when they’re dying on the job; but, when mine owners profits are cut “jobs” becomes part of their hypocrite lexicon.