Saturday, December 22, 2007

Quotes for Your Soul & Merry Christmas!

In this edition:

Information Clearing House Freedom Quotes

Merry Christmas From John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Struggling National Symbol Wonders What We Have Become
(© Christopher Christie)

When one is overcome with “outrage fatigue,” it is sometimes helpful, or at least validating, to embrace the thoughts of those who came before. A good source of those thoughts is a news service such as Information Clearing House, which provides worthy quotes with every issue.

Please read the most recent offering:
Information Clearing House Newsletter
News You Won't Find On CNN


"It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin." -- James Monroe (1758-1831), 5th US President Source: First Inaugural Address, 1817

"Under every government the dernier [Fr. last, or final] resort of the people, is an appeal to the sword; whether to defend themselves against the open attacks of a foreign enemy, or to check the insidious encroachments of domestic foes. Whenever a people... entrust the defence of their country to a regular, standing army, composed of mercenaries, the power of that country will remain under the direction of the most wealthy citizens." -- A Framer - Anonymous 'framer' of the US Constitution Source: Independent Gazetteer, January 29, 1791

"He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is neither subject to compulsion nor to hindrance, nor to force; whose movements to action are not impeded, whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not fall into that which he would avoid." -- Epictetus (ca 55-135 A.D.) Greek philospher Source: Discourses, ca 100 A.D.

"The only freedom deserving the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." -- John Stuart Mill - (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist Source: On Liberty, 1859

"Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." -John Maynard Keynes, British economist

And from yesterday's edition:

"It belongs to human nature to hate those you have injured." Tacitus

The Eagle Cap Wilderness and Baker County In Winter
(© Christopher Christie)

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Some Steve Earle Lyrics:

Ashes to Ashes (dust to dust)

There was blood on their hands and a plague on the land
They drew a line in the sand and made their last stand
They said "God made us in his image
And it's in God that we trust"
When asked about the men that had died by their hands
They said "ashes to ashes and dust to dust"

Now, nobody lives forever
Nothin' stands the test of time
Oh, you heard 'em say "never say never"
But it's always best to keep it in mind
That every tower ever built tumbles
No matter how strong, no matter how tall
Someday even great walls will crumble
And every idol ever raised falls
And someday even man's best laid plans
Will lie twisted and covered in rust
When we've done all that we can but it slipped through our hands
And it's ashes to ashes and dust to dust

Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)

Look at ya
Yeah, take a look in the mirror now tell me what you see
Another satisfied customer in the front of the line for the American dream
I remember when we was both out on the boulevard
Talkin' revolution and singin' the blues
Nowadays it's letters to the editor and cheatin' on our taxes
Is the best that we can do
Come on

Look around
There's doctors down on Wall Street
Sharpenin' their scalpels and tryin' to cut a deal
Meanwhile, back at the hospital
We got accountants playin' God and countin' out the pills
Yeah, I know, that sucks that your HMO
Ain't doin' what you thought it would do
But everybody's gotta die sometime and we can't save everybody
It's the best that we can do

Four score and a hundred and fifty years ago
Our forefathers made us equal as long as we can pay
Yeah, well maybe that wasn't exactly what they was thinkin'
Version six-point-oh of the American way
. . . .
Yeah, I realize that ain't exactly democratic, but it's either them or us and
And it's the best we can do

Yeah, passionately conservative
It's the best we can do

Conservatively passionate
It's the best we can do

Meanwhile they’re still thinkin’ Hey--
Lets go blow up Iraq—I mean North Korea
I mean Syria, I mean Texas. . . .

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TNR Humane? - Wolf Reintroduction - Youchoose on Youtube

In this issue:

-Trap-Neuter-Release Program
-Resisting Delisting ~ Idaho's Wolves & Livestock's Influence - video
-Youchoose at Youtube

Is TNR A Humane Solution to the Feral Cat Problem?
Four years ago, I was a volunteer at a county animal shelter. It was a pretty unpleasant experience in many ways, but I enjoyed working with the abandoned, or otherwise abused pets. It was pleasing to find out that pitbulls can have a loving and endearing spirit, and it was satisfying to see a local person leave with a purring kitten or tail-wagging dog. I was truly saddened to find out why the fellow with the flatbed truck came in every two weeks to get those big black barrels out back. If, after a few weeks, an animal didn’t get a home, it ended up in one of the black barrels. It is a hard reality, that even as an adult, I didn’t want to face.

In recent times there has been a fairly successful effort to demonize those who favor time-tested methods of feral cat control. They have been relegated to the political and social sidelines by the “compassionately correct,” who have placed control of feral cats under the bureaucratized, “nanny state” government and NGO umbrella of so-called “humane” treatment. In that vein, over the last year or more there have been several articles in the local papers about our feral cat problem and the trap-neuter-release program (TNR). The last article that I am aware of that even hinted there might be any problem with feeding strays, or with TNR in general, was an August 2006 Herald article by Alex Pahunas, but no article that I am aware of, made a real effort to let readers know about the many negative aspects of TNR or about the debate that has been simmering for several years. In the last few weeks, there were two articles and two editorials promoting successes of the program. Both editorials suggested that the City Council was wrong to deny continued funding for the program, and one seemed to think that TNR was a humane solution, while implying that nothing less than Sainthood would do for the lead proponents of the program.

Feral Cat on Successful Hunt (

My reaction to the problem is that it is better than nothing, not particularly humane, and that it is not the best solution or the wisest use of resources. While it likely will reduce feral cat populations in the long run, it ignores a primary source of the problem: pet cats that are not neutered or spayed. It also ignores other important issues that are discussed below, not the least of which are deleterious effects on songbird populations and the problems released feral cats pose to taxpayers and other residents who are not particularly infatuated with them.

Most definitions of the word “humane” have to do with showing compassion, kindness and mercy towards other humans or animals. Some people have a pretty short list of the animals, or even humans, they have compassion and concern for. They can see themselves and others as humane if they refuse to euthanize cats, even if domestic and feral cats kill millions of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles every year, and even if some of these same people support American policies that have killed millions of innocent civilians around the globe. It is that kind of moral and ethical flexibility that makes life a breeze for some, and a bad dream for others.

Local proponents have promoted TNR as both humane and legal. Many studies over the last decade have questioned whether it is either, and I would add that it is not the most efficient use of taxpayer or other dollars.

While proponents claim that spaying or neutering feral cats and releasing them back into the wild is more humane than traditional methods involving euthanasia, opponents (yes, there are many), point out that the life of a feral cat can be a bit torturous, especially in Baker County during winter. The lives of feral cats are much shorter than those of house cats (as much as three times shorter) for good reason. Besides the difficulty of finding adequate shelter, their living conditions subject them to suffering and miserable deaths from accidents with vehicles, attacks by other animals (including humans, dogs, and other cats), poisoning, disease and possible starvation. Is subjecting cats to a dangerous, painful and marginal existence really humane?

Feral Cats Lead A Torturous Existence
( photo)

Cats are not only more likely to be victims of feline disease in the wild, they also spread diseases to other animals and humans. The list is long, but includes such favorites as rabies, toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever and worms. Is unnecessarily maintaining a large reservoir of these diseases in the feral cat population, from where they can be spread to humans, pet cats, or other animals, a wise and humane policy?

Cats, like most predators, evolved to become efficient killers. Even well fed cats can’t control their instinct to kill when confronted with their natural small animal prey—like that hummingbird whose return you had been patiently waiting for.

Rufous Hummingbirds migrate to Baker City (© Christopher Christie)

Cats are thought to have played an important part in the extinction of 30 species of birds worldwide. Each pet cat is estimated to kill about 32 small animals per year and feral cats, which may number as many as 60 million in the U.S., are thought to kill far more than that. It is estimated that cats kill hundreds of millions of songbirds and over a billion other animals in the U. S. every year. Granted, some of those animals are introduced pests like the house sparrow and starling, which do a good deal of damage themselves, but many are not. Some are neotropical migrants like hummingbirds and warblers, who already have enough troubles surviving in our over-populated, bruised and battered world. Unlike the house sparrow, neotropicals are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other victims may be covered by other wildlife protection laws as well. Is enabling the slaughter of birds and other animals by feral cats through the TNR program really humane?

Feral Cats kill millions of birds annually
(Australian Government photo)

There are other problems caused by uncared for cats as well. Some of you may have experienced the unmitigated joy of unknowingly stepping in an unplanned cat box, which previously had been your mulched parking area, before you walk into the house. Others of you may have been welcomed by the delightfully perfumed scent of a large male cat who sprayed down your shed after commandeering it for living quarters. Protecting other small pets and young farm animals from feral cats can also become a vexing problem.


Arguments are made and studies are cited for both sides with regard to the effectiveness of the programs in reducing feral cat populations. In the absence of definitive studies, logic tells us that euthanasia, in combination with spay-neuter programs and education, is at least as effective as TNR, and it addresses a host of other problems associated with feral cats that TNR does not. Feral cat advocates and animal “rights” activists have deluged the internet with half-baked opinions and studies of the issue, but emotional appeals are more often to be found than facts.

Obviously, the math for a reduction in the cat population per spayed female remains the same whether the cat has been spayed or euthanized, so both methods are beneficial in that respect. Both programs will reduce the population of feral cats over time, but TNR has more uncontrollable variables than euthanasia. For example, TNR depends in part on people who are able and willing to feed feral cat colonies. When feeders, who are often elderly, become ill, die, or simply can no longer bear the costs, cats may starve or disperse. Cats, being smarter than some may assume, also become wary of traps, which makes it difficult to bring them in again for the additional vaccinations which are required for humane treatment and disease control. On the other hand, those with a feral cat problem are motivated to do something about it, and when they trap an animal for euthanasia, it won’t have another chance to outwit someone else who is defending their property from feline offences. An added bonus is that these people don’t bill the city or county for their work. One thing is certain; euthanized cats don’t breed, spray your shed, yowl outside your window at night, or kill your favorite hummingbird at the feeder.

Legal issues

As mentioned previously, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes killing neotropical birds and other migratory birds, like hummers, unlawful. There are questions as to whether it is legal to release captured feral cats back into feral status when one knows that these cats will subsequently be responsible for killing migratory birds. Corporations have been convicted for allowing the release of polluting substances that have resulted in the deaths of these birds, so it is not far-fetched to imagine convictions for releasing feral cats back into the community when it is clear that they will resume killing birds, including birds protected by law. The same applies to animals protected by other laws as well.

Additionally there exist applicable Oregon State laws in Title 16, Chapter 167, that protect animals from cruelty, abuse and abandonment. There are questions as to whether persons who maintain cat colonies are providing “minimum care,” which is defined as “care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal,” including food, water, housing, and veterinary care.

Also, those who release feral cats back into the community may be guilty of animal “abuse,” which is defined to be when a “person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly . . . Causes serious physical injury to an animal; or . . . Cruelly causes the death of an animal.” Intentionally releasing a feral cat, that is known to be an indiscriminate serial killer of dozens of birds and other small animals every year , could easily be interpreted as animal abuse.

Another State law, 167.340, the animal abandonment statute, also states that “A person commits the crime of animal abandonment if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a domesticated animal at a location without providing for the animal's continued care.” It is not clear weather some or all feral cats may be defined as domesticated animals.

I do not necessarily agree with all these State laws, but the question I, and others, have is whether or not TNR is in compliance with them.

Costs of TNR Versus Euthanasia

One 2004 study by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that euthanasia was more effective than TNR for managing feral cats. Feral cat activists have tried to shoot down that study by complaining it didn’t factor in cost and public opinion.

One of the efforts tried to show that euthanasia is incredibly expensive by using figures from large cities with established animal shelters, but the study didn’t provide apples to apples comparisons. For euthanasia, they included costs to pick up, house, and dispose of an animal, but they then forgot to include trap, release and other costs when comparing the euthanasia cost to the cost for TNR. In Baker City’s case, the papers report that Baker City vets charge $60 to $70 to spay and between $35 and $45 to neuter. In Baker City, euthanasia fees for cats run between $20.00 to $40.00, and some charge a $10 disposal charge. Animal Clinic at 10th and Campbell, charges a flat $20.00. You do the math. While veterinarians no doubt appreciate the TNR program for a number of altruistic reasons, it should also be noted that it serves their economic interest. There is no doubt though that they could support a lower cost euthanasia program, coupled with a low-cost, donor and City supported spay-neuter program, and so could city taxpayers.

If government would just trust the judgment of the people affected by marauding feral cats, instead of telling them how they must deal with the problem, the cost of a remedy would drop like a rock.

No study that I am aware of has factored in the environmental costs for the slaughter of birds and other small animals into the TNR program, nor have they included costs for feeding and all the necessary vaccinations. Surely no community nuisance costs have been included in TNR comparisons for the time residents spend alleviating the damage done by male cats spraying in once pleasant places (neutered cats still spray), or for deodorizing and vet bills when one’s dog gets in a tangle with a “humane” person’s recently released furry feral friend. These are obviously not costs that would be incurred by a euthanasia program after a feral cat is initially trapped.

Public opinion, may, or may not, be a problem. If the papers would do their job and make the public aware of the pros and cons of each possible solution, then community supported euthanasia, in combination with spay-neuter programs, might not be such a hard sell. This is especially so in a region where hunters abound, and where people are not particularly squeamish about controlling pestiferous animal populations through lethal means. Even with our local media’s one-sided approach, Bakerites may already have serious questions about TNR, and about using their tax dollars in a way that ignores so many problems associated with released feral cats.


We all know that ignoring the problem of feral cats won’t make them go away. Recognizing that the TNR program is seriously flawed is obviously not enough. Other programs, that don’t carry the deleterious side effects of TNR, can and should be implemented. The City still needs to deal with feral cats and they can help in several ways.

• The City should contract with one or more local vets for publicly available, inexpensive, spay-neuter and euthanasia services.
• Let citizens take care of the problem without harassment by law enforcement, and irrational feral cat and animal rights advocates by allowing those affected to deal with or bring in strays that are causing problems where they live.
• The City should step forward and fund a low-cost spay-neuter program for low income residents. Animal advocates could do their part by donating to the City’s program and finding grants to support it.
• Begin a continuing education program informing people about irresponsible breeding, keeping cats inside, and the low-cost alternatives available to them.
• If necessary, the city should begin licensing cats, just as they do dogs, and include financial incentives for spay-neutering.

Cats Can Live Happily Indoors

Private donor financed TNR is fine, but the most low cost and humane solution would be to initially let affected citizens solve their own feral cat problem. Taking feral cats to the local vets for euthanasia, rather that spay-neuter and release, will accomplish a part of the population control objectives. That, coupled with owner education and a city financed spay/neuter program to help financially strapped pet owners, will begin to alleviate the problem. Asking cat owners in the city to keep their cats inside would also help prevent breeding, the killing of small animals, and damage to neighboring property. Those who allow their pets to reproduce without a reasonable and realistic plan for finding decent homes for the offspring should not be tolerated. The licensing of domestic cats, as is done with dogs, along with similar financial incentives, such as licensing discounts for owner-initiated spay/neutering, should be used if the first steps don’t bring the necessary results. Licensing cats would also make it easy to know whether a cat is the pet of a legally responsible owner. One thing is for sure--TNR is only an effective and “humane” solution for those whose concern for abandoned cats is far greater than their compassion for other animals or their concern for the community’s health, tranquility, and welfare.

Nobody wants to perpetuate the black barrels I spoke of earlier. Nor do citizens want to be put in the position of having to defend themselves and their animal friends from feral cats and the problems they bring. We don’t want to decide whether it is more humane to kill birds than cats, and through the knowledge gained by education, the help of low-cost, community supported spay/neuter/euthanasia programs, and licensing if necessary, we won’t have to. With a sensible policy, choosing between being humane to cats or humane to other critters, shouldn’t be a problem.

Related articles:


Cats and Birds: Keeping Cats Indoors

Kill the Cat That Kills the Bird?


Resisting Delisting ~ Idaho's Wolves & Livestock's Influence
This video provides a pretty good window into the mentality of the "shoot, shovel, and shut up" crowd.


What do the Candidates Really Think?

Tired of trying to figure out what the candidates think about issues you care about?


This was mentioned as a good source by a media watchdog on last Friday's Bill Moyers program on PBS.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mortgage Meltdown--Who Is Responsible?

Many thoughtful observers and economists saw the inevitable burst of the housing bubble a few years ago. A few have even been able to explain why & how it happened. It appears to be yet another of capitalism's predictable periodic fleecings (Think savings and loan scandal, for example), where wealthy insiders bleed hopeful (greedy?) investors dry, bring the financial system to near collapse, and then get their friends in government to make sure there are no consequences and that the taxpayer bails everyone, or at least the responsible parties, out.

"As chief of Goldman Sachs, Paulson was involved, to degrees as yet unrevealed, in the mortgage securitization process during the halcyon days of mortgage fraud from 2004 to 2006.

Paulson became the U.S. Treasury secretary on July 10, 2006, after the extent of the debacle was coming into focus for those in the know. Goldman Sachs achieved recent accolades in the markets for having bet heavily against the housing market, while Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and others got hammered for failing to time the end of the credit bubble."
"It is truly amazing that right now everyone in the country is deferring to Paulson and the heads of Countrywide, JPMorgan, Bank of America and others as the best group to work out a solution to this problem. No one is talking about the fact that these people created the problem and profited to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars from it."

From the San Francisco Chronicle
Interest rate 'freeze' - the real story is fraud
Bankers pay lip service to families while scurrying to avert suits, prison

Sean Olender
Sunday, December 9, 2007

New proposals to ease our great mortgage meltdown keep rolling in. First the Treasury Department urged the creation of a new fund that would buy risky mortgage bonds as a tactic to hide what those bonds were really worth. (Not much.) Then the idea was to use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy the risky loans, even if it was clear that U.S. taxpayers would eventually be stuck with the bill. But that plan went south after Fannie suffered a new accounting scandal, and Freddie's existing loan losses shot up more than expected.

Now, just unveiled Thursday, comes the "freeze," the brainchild of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. It sounds good: For five years, mortgage lenders will freeze interest rates on a limited number of "teaser" subprime loans. Other homeowners facing foreclosure will be offered assistance from the Federal Housing Administration.

But unfortunately, the "freeze" is just another fraud - and like the other bailout proposals, it has nothing to do with U.S. house prices, with "working families," keeping people in their homes or any of that nonsense.

The sole goal of the freeze is to prevent owners of mortgage-backed securities, many of them foreigners, from suing U.S. banks and forcing them to buy back worthless mortgage securities at face value - right now almost 10 times their market worth.

The ticking time bomb in the U.S. banking system is not resetting subprime mortgage rates. The real problem is the contractual ability of investors in mortgage bonds to require banks to buy back the loans at face value if there was fraud in the origination process.

And, to be sure, fraud is everywhere. It's in the loan application documents, and it's in the appraisals. There are e-mails and memos floating around showing that many people in banks, investment banks and appraisal companies - all the way up to senior management - knew about it.

I can hear the hum of shredders working overtime, and maybe that is the new "hot" industry to invest in. There are lots of people who would like to muzzle subpoena-happy New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to buy time and make this all go away. Cuomo is just inches from getting what he needs to start putting a lot of people in prison. I bet some people are trying right now to make him an offer "he can't refuse."

Despite Thursday's ballyhooed new deal with mortgage lenders, does anyone really think that it can ultimately stop fraud lawsuits by mortgage bond investors, many of them spread out across the globe?

The catastrophic consequences of bond investors forcing originators to buy back loans at face value are beyond the current media discussion. The loans at issue dwarf the capital available at the largest U.S. banks combined, and investor lawsuits would raise stunning liability sufficient to cause even the largest U.S. banks to fail, resulting in massive taxpayer-funded bailouts of Fannie and Freddie, and even FDIC.

The problem isn't just subprime loans. It is the entire mortgage market. As home prices fall, defaults will rise sharply - period. And so will the patience of mortgage bondholders. Different classes of mortgage bonds from various risk pools are owned by different central banks, funds, pensions and investors all over the world. Even your pension or 401(k) might have some of these bonds in it.

Perhaps some U.S. government department can make veiled threats to foreign countries to suggest they will suffer unpleasant consequences if their largest holders (central banks and investment funds) don't go along with the plan, but how could it be possible to strong-arm everyone?

What would be prudent and logical is for the banks that sold this toxic waste to buy it back and for a lot of people to go to prison. If they knew about the fraud, they should have to buy the bonds back. The time to look into this is before the shredders have worked their magic - not five years from now.

Those selling the "freeze" have suggested that mortgage-backed securities investors will benefit because they lose more with rising foreclosures. But with fast-depreciating collateral, the last thing investors in mortgage bonds ought to do is put off foreclosures. Rate freezes are at best a tool for delaying the inevitable foreclosures when even the most optimistic forecasters expect home prices to fall. In October, Goldman Sachs issued a report forecasting an incredible 35 to 40 percent drop in California home prices in the coming few years. To minimize losses, a mortgage bondholder would obviously be better off foreclosing on a home before prices plunge.

The goal of the freeze may be to delay bond investors from suing by putting off the big foreclosure wave for several years. But it may also be to stop bond investors from suing. If the investors agreed to loan modifications with the "real" wage and asset information from refinancing borrowers, mortgage originators and bundlers would have an excuse once the foreclosure occurred. They could say, "Fraud? What fraud?! You knew the borrower's real income and asset information later when he refinanced!"

The key is to refinance borrowers whose current loans involved fraud in the origination process. And I assure you it was a minority of borrowers whose loans didn't involve fraud.

The government is trying to accomplish wide-scale refinancing by tricking bond investors, or by tricking U.S. taxpayers. Guess who will foot the bill now that the FHA is entering the fray?

Ultimately, the people in these secret Paulson meetings were probably less worried about saving the mortgage market than with saving themselves. Some might be looking at prison time.

As chief of Goldman Sachs, Paulson was involved, to degrees as yet unrevealed, in the mortgage securitization process during the halcyon days of mortgage fraud from 2004 to 2006.

Paulson became the U.S. Treasury secretary on July 10, 2006, after the extent of the debacle was coming into focus for those in the know. Goldman Sachs achieved recent accolades in the markets for having bet heavily against the housing market, while Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and others got hammered for failing to time the end of the credit bubble.

Goldman Sachs is the only major investment bank in the United States that has emerged as yet unscathed from this debacle. The success of its strategy must have resulted from fairly substantial bets against housing, mortgage banking and related industries, which also means that Goldman Sachs saw this coming at the same time they were bundling and selling these loans.

If a mortgage bond investor sues Goldman Sachs to force the institution to buy back loans, could Paulson be forced to testify as to whether Goldman Sachs knew or had reason to know about fraud in the origination process of the loans it was bundling?

It is truly amazing that right now everyone in the country is deferring to Paulson and the heads of Countrywide, JPMorgan, Bank of America and others as the best group to work out a solution to this problem. No one is talking about the fact that these people created the problem and profited to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars from it.

I suspect that such a group first sat down and tried to figure out how to protect their financial interests and avoid criminal liability. And then when they agreed on the plan, they decided to sell it as "helping working families stay in their homes." That's why these meetings were secret, and reporters and the public weren't invited.

The next time that Paulson is before the Senate Finance Committee, instead of asking, "How much money do you think we should give your banking buddies?" I'd like to see New York Sen. Chuck Schumer ask him what he knew about this staggering fraud at the time he was chief of Goldman Sachs.

The Goldman report in October suggests that rampant investor demand is to blame for origination fraud - even though these investors were misled by high credit ratings from bond rating agencies being paid billions by the U.S. investment banks, like Goldman, that were selling the bundled mortgages.

This logic is like saying shoppers seeking bargain-priced soup encourage the grocery store owner to steal it. I mean, we're talking about criminal fraud here. We are on the cusp of a mammoth financial crisis, and the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury are trying to limit the liability of their banking friends under the guise of trying to help borrowers. At stake is nothing short of the continued existence of the U.S. banking system.

Sean Olender is a San Mateo attorney.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Iran & Correction to Yesterday's Post

The post below has been corrected to include the ever-popular "Death to the Rodents" picture from the 1920 Yearbook of Agriculture. It appears above the black-footed ferret in the article about wolves.

Also, good column on Iran, Israel and the U.S. by Justin Raimondo at

Iran: Why Won't We Take Yes For An Answer?
Israel's amen corner tries to spin the NIE report

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wolves, Prison Labor, NPR

Once again, I am experiencing difficulties posting. I can get the images up, but can't control formatting, like placement of captions. I hope you can center the captions in your mind and imagine the topic titles in bold print, etc. Formatting is definitely not as I had planned and I'll work on it. Sorry, out of my immediate control. -- Chris


Gray Wolf (Canis lupis) [USF&WS Photo]

I enjoyed the Herald Tuesday’s article by Jayson Jacoby on the dispersal of wolves into North East Oregon. It was gratifying to see it as it helps confirm my sighting of a pair of wolves near Lick Creek (Wallowa County) in August of this year. I reported the sighting to the Fish & Wildlife Service that month, but apparently they were unable to independently confirm it. Good that the snow held the tracks found by a local rancher, hopefully not one of the “shoot, shovel, and shut-up” up crowd, so that wolves could be confirmed this year. We should be relieved that the wolf has finally come home. I look forward to hearing their howls in the coming years but predator persecution has a long history in America, and in Eastern Oregon in particular (2 of 4 recent wolf migrants have been shot). Hopefully the State and Federal government will take their responsibilities seriously and protect the wolves from those who have vowed to stop their reintroduction here.

In America, the practice of predator persecution by the agricultural “producer” community has its roots in the insecurity of an expanding agrarian pioneer population dating back to the arrival of Europeans on this continent during the 1600’s. It has since spread to the hunting industrial complex, which has concerns that it will reduce numbers of “game” species, like elk and deer, which in turn could reduce the number of tags allowed and licenses sold. This could lower income to the State hunting bureaucracy, to gun shops and ammunition dealers, and ultimately to local communities who depend on the flush of hunter dollars in the fall. (On the other hand, it might bring the curious into the area hoping to view or hear wolves.)

Bounties on wolves were offered as early as 1630 in the Massachusetts Colony, at which time, some 250,00 or more wolves roamed America’s wild lands. By about 1700, wolves had been eliminated from the Eastern United States. According to the Wild Rockies Alliance, “Professional ‘wolfers’ working for the livestock industry laid out strychnine-poisoned meat lines up to 150 miles long. Wolves were shot, poisoned, trapped, clubbed, set on fire and inoculated with mange, a painful and often fatal skin disease caused by mites.” The persecution reached its apex in the late 1800’s and into the early years of the last century, by which time it is estimated that some 55,000 wolves a year were being executed. Between 1918 and 1920, over 128,500 wolves were slaughtered in the Western U. S.

A palpable hatred for both predators and other “varmints” is revealed in articles printed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Year Book for 1920, where classics like “Hunting Down Stock Killers” and “Death To The Rodents” can be found.

Some quotes:

“Uncle Sam, tired of a drain on his resources of from $20,000,000 to $30,000,000 every year through the slaughter [slaughter is to be reserved for humans alone] of domestic stock by predatory animals, now keeps constantly in the field a force of hunters who are instructed to wipe out these nonproducers. In their place, and safe from their depredations, it is the aim to populate the range country [I.e., primarily public lands] with flocks and herds….”
. . . .
“Losses of live stock from ravages of predatory animals are among the most spectacular and exasperating of those suffered by the stockman. Disease may decimate his flocks and herds, or drought or wintry storms may result in the starvation or death of numbers of valuable animals. None of these disasters, however, arouses such resentment and determination to settle the score as arises in the heart of the ranchman when wolves or other stock destroyers enter corrals or operate on the open range [public lands], maiming and killing his cattle or other domestic stock.”
. . . .
“Men with keen insight into animal psychology and the ways and motives of wild creatures had sought out improved methods of luring them to destruction when their presence was detrimental to the live-stock business.”
. . . .
“Careful field studies of the abundance, habits, and relationship of predatory animals to the live-stock industry had been made by the Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture for many years.”

. . . .
“. . . the death of the Custer wolf was hailed with delight by stockmen throughout the region where the depredations had occurred, and has added to the impetus to a movement for cooperation with the Department in order to meet more adequately the needs of the live-stock industry.”

“Evidence that Uncle Sam’s Hunters Get results”

In another part of the article titled “’Getting’ the Chief Offenders,” a caption, under a photo of trapped coyotes and wolves, and of a “hunter” spreading poisoned baits, states: “Trapped coyote—more than 250,000 of his ilk have been accounted for [killed] in five years by Federal and cooperating hunters.” [Emphasis added]

It is clear from these attitudes that the American people are expected to sacrifice their public ecosystems, and all the species there-in, (not to mention their tax dollars flowing to the U.S.D.A predator control efforts, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management) to the economic interests of ranchers. In practice, that is exactly what has occurred. Like every thing else in our corrupt American “democracy,” the theft of our public lands and ecosystems has been financed by the economic power of special interest groups like the various Cattlemen’s Associations. This is accomplished through their financial contributions to members of Congress, especially in districts where extractive industries and ranchers have large landholdings with the significant economic and social power that those holdings bring.

And it is not just native predators who suffer. Prairie dogs and other important rodents have suffered as well. As the picture above illustrates, prairie dogs, and those who depend on them, like the black-footed ferret, have been the targets of the stockman’s jihad. Hawks and many other species depend upon the availability of a prey base, which consists largely of rodents, for their survival.

Black-Footed Ferret [USF&WS Photo]

Black-Tailed Prairie Dog [USF&WS Photo]

Swainson’s Hawk [Photo © Christopher Christie]

My question, and that of many in the environmental community, is why should ranchers or hunters have control over which of our native predators should be allowed to have access to their historic habitat on our public lands? The wolf has an important role in maintaining the health of our public ecosystems. If public lands ranchers insist on putting their livestock in a situation where they will naturally become prey, then that is their problem. Our lands should not be managed for the benefit of ranchers and hunters, our lands should be managed for the benefit of native ecosystems and the services they provide for all of the American people.
[For old letter on predator control see:

Prison Labor and U.S. Timber Company

The Record Courier and Brian Addison first broke the story of U.S. Timber’s attempt to get prisoner workers from the Powder River Correctional facility on November 22. The Herald followed up with another article yesterday, December 5th. The later story stated that the Baker County Economic Development Council has endorsed a plan for U.S. Timber to hire the workers at very near the minimum wage for a 6 month period, after which the relationship would be re-evaluated.

According to Jennifer Watkins at City Hall, the development council consists of chairman Craig Ward (a local farmer from the where’s my subsidy crowd), vice-chair Mike Rudi (from the its all about business people Chamber of Commerce crowd), Steve Brocato (with dual membership in both the where’s my subsidy crowd and the I’m in charge of my overall plan crowd) Fred Warner (from the County Commission and the go along to get along crowd), and Terry Schumacher (with dual membership in the its all about business people Chamber of Commerce crowd and the do as I say, not as I do crowd).

So our Economic Development Council has endorsed a plan for U.S. Timber to hire workers at near the minimum wage.

You may remember a time, a decade or so ago, when the use of prison labor in private industry was frowned upon in America—when we bitterly complained about China’s practice of using prison labor to make products exported to the US. It none-the-less has a long American history, going back at least to the early 1800’s when private industry would get their greedy hands on prisoners and literally work them to death. Even though it may look bad to the semi-civilized, it does kind of fit in with the sort of parochial, pre-modern, company-town, muddling towards medieval feel of North East Oregon, and the practice should be a sound addition as the eighth cornerstone of the development council’s economic development plan for Baker County. And what better way to market Baker City than to be known as the town that provides prison labor to private industry? Even if there aren’t enough prisoners to go around, the practice should help keep prevailing wages and benefits at rock bottom, which may have the effect of attracting some really sharp (as in cut-throat), no-nonsense, and otherwise intriguing business people to our little part of paradise.

And what better firm to start the practice than U.S. Timber? What with illegals getting harder and harder to find, and more dangerous to keep, a captive pool of local laborers coerced into pulling the green chain is just what the doctor ordered. With the US leading the world in an ever-expanding number of the incarcerated, prisoners might just outnumber the undocumented in a decade or so. Plus, there are some real economic advantages to using captive labor, including no vacation or sick pay, and even more attractive, no health or unemployment insurance to worry about. It is a brilliant and strategic business decision that should position U.S. Timber to be in the forefront of the prison labor boom-times ahead.

The aspect slow-growth advocates might like is that it should retard economic growth because these workers already have housing at the correctional facility, they don’t drive cars to go shopping, and traffic won’t be an issue. Growth might also be slowed significantly when the word gets out that we are becoming a prison labor center—it just might keep the namby-pamby, progressive riff-raff out, who knows.

Now I know there are those of you who object to the whole sordid prison labor thing, but look at the alternative. As hinted at by Commissioner Warner, if U.S Timber wants to attract a steady, loyal work force, they’d have to offer a living wage and benefits package that would motivate workers to pull the green chain, and what kind of American employer would want to do that?

NPR Democratic Candidates' Debate (12/04/07)

You’d think a question as important as the following might cause NPR, the darlings of the so-called “progressives” in our country, to give all candidates a chance to answer it. But no, they don’t, because NPR is not about progressive politics, it is about giving its listeners the feel-good impression of thoughtless, and most importantly, no cost, progressive politics. They are simply another elitist propaganda machine in the service of the upper and middle classes, which ultimately serves the social status quo. Same for PBS.

From the transcript:

<< SIEGEL: Well, this question comes from a listener. It's political science professor Chris Pence) of Marion, Indiana.
PROF. CHRIS PENCE (MARION, INDIANA): (From tape.) American diplomatic history books recount the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, and will likely discuss the Bush Doctrine. When future historians write of your administration's foreign policy pursuits, what will be noted as your doctrine and the vision you cast for U.S. diplomatic relations?
SIEGEL: Time for a couple of you at least. Senator Clinton, what do you think the Clinton Doctrine will be?
SEN. CLINTON: Blah, blah, blah….
SIEGEL: Thank you, Senator Clinton.
The Edwards Doctrine.
MR. EDWARDS: Blah, blah, blah….
SIEGEL: And Senator Biden, the Biden Doctrine.
SEN. BIDEN: Blah, blah, blah….
SIEGEL: Senator Obama, the short version of the Obama Doctrine.
SEN. OBAMA: Blah, blah, blah….
SIEGEL: And we will continue our debate from Des Moines in just a minute. This is special coverage from NPR News.
MICHELE NORRIS: From NPR News and Iowa Public Radio, we're back with our debate among the Democratic presidential candidates.
I'm Michele Norris.
SIEGEL: I'm Robert Siegel.
INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.
We're broadcasting from Des Moines, Iowa, and in this part of the debate, we're going to focus on a changing China and its effects here at home. >>

Good to hear, once again, who the all important moderators are. But tell me, what was the Kucinich, Gravel, Dodd & etc. doctrine?

We’ll never know if NPR has anything to do with it. But I’ll tell you. . .
In Kucinich’s case it is the Peace Doctrine.

My tally of the debate’s substantive exchanges, offered to my sampling of 3 candidates by the NPR moderators shows the following:
Clinton 15 or 16 exchanges
Kucinich 10 exchanges
Gravel 6 exchanges

God knows what Gravel really thinks, but NPR might not want you to know.

The debate was just one example of NPR’s penchant for shutting down real progressives and independents. More importantly is NPR’s bias with regard to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. There was no question explicitly addressing the most important problem affecting our foreign policy, which is the unqualified support by American leadership of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands by the colonial and religious state of Israel--the problem that stirs up these "rag-head terrorists."

Former Senator Mike Gravel attempted to address the issue when responding to questions about the threat of Iran and the wisdom of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a “terrorist” organization:

<< MR. GRAVEL: There is no evidence. There is no evidence, and they've produced none. Our military has no evidence and they've not produced any.
But let's — I want to touch something that they're all [the other candidates] giving license to, that there's something wrong with Iran supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. These are two elected organizations, and — and why can't they give support to those organizations? Israel doesn't want it, so why do they buy hook, line and sinker that they can't give aid to Hamas and Hezbollah? We give unlimited aid to Israel. These people are fighting for their rights.
SIEGEL: You believe —
MR. GRAVEL: Is there something wrong with that?
SIEGEL: We'll come back to your points in a moment. >>

But Siegel never came back to give Gravel a chance to elaborate, because that’s his job—to make sure that NPR listeners don’t get the ideas and information they need to accurately understand our destructive Middle East foreign policy and the apartheid Jewish state of Israel. Siegel and NPR feel a need to protect Israel, even if it means victimizing millions of Palestinians, other Arabs and Persians, with spin that characterizes them not as the freedom fighters they are, but as blood-thirsty, crazed demons and “terrorists.” The Muslim resistance to illegal occupations and war crimes by Israel and the US must not be understood to be the legitimate defensive activity that it is, it must be seen as unreasonable criminal activity warranting imperial wars of destruction and/or occupation. The same of course for Iran’s peaceful pursuit of nuclear energy. That’s why little attention is given to the fact that Iran has a legal right under the Article IV of Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, while the rogue nation of Israel didn’t even sign the treaty and is widely acknowledged to have more than 200 nukes. Our hypocrisy deepens when you examine our treatment of India. India also has nuclear weapons and is not a signatory to the treaty. Yet, in violation of Article III of the treaty, Congress approved the sale of civilian nuclear technology to India. See also:

For more on NPR’s outrageous bias on Palestine see:

For more on NPR’s not so progressive bias, see:

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting notes that:

<< little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources—including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants—Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent). A majority of Republican sources when the GOP controls the White House and Congress may not be surprising, but Republicans held a similar though slightly smaller edge (57 percent to 42 percent) in 1993, when Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And a lively race for the Democratic presidential nomination was beginning to heat up at the time of the 2003 study.

Partisans from outside the two major parties were almost nowhere to be seen, with the exception of four Libertarian Party representatives who appeared in a single story (Morning Edition , 6/26/03).

Republicans not only had a substantial partisan edge, individual Republicans were NPR ’s most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance. George Bush led all sources for the month with 36 appearances, followed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (8) and Sen. Pat Roberts (6). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer all tied with five appearances each.

Senators Edward Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and Max Baucus were the most frequently heard Democrats, each appearing four times. No nongovernmental source appeared more than three times. With the exception of Secretary of State Powell, all of the top 10 most frequently appearing sources were white male government officials. >>

NPR is still offering up “experts” like Richard Perle, Kenneth Pollack, et. al., and other discredited spokesmen who were cheerleaders for the war in Iraq. They also regularly produce pro-Israel reporters like Linda Gradstein and partisan Zionists like Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross in their ongoing efforts to confuse listeners about Palestine. Even FAIR itself, rarely offers a balanced perspective on the situation in Palestine.

For more on NPR’s coverage of the Palestinian situation, see:

Little has changed since the article was produced—if anything, reporting about Palestine and Iran on NPR has only become worse.

A study on PBS news content came to similar conclusions.
or simply search the archives for several articles.

For more on the corruption of US Middle East foreign policy see:
Mearsheimer and Walt’s original article on the Israel Lobby at the London Review of Books:

or, buy their new book--
The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy
By Mearsheimer and Walt, $17.16 at
Billy Bragg and Wilco-- "The Unwelcome Guest"
By Woodie Guthrie