Thursday, October 30, 2014

PRIVATIZATION, SOCIALISM, BIG GOVERNMENT?

If you live under some weird illusion that the private sector is good and your government is bad.  Most likely – you have it wrong. Stop, think about how the private sector runs to the government every time they screw things up. Think about who funds the government – we do. Who bails out big banks, big insurance, big Wall Street, big private sector everything – we do. Who is getting short end of the straw?  We are.

Example:  “The Antares rocket supplied by contractor Orbital Sciences blew up moments after liftoff at NASA’s space launch facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the space agency said:
“The explosion destroyed the rocket and spacecraft and immediately raised questions about the future of NASA’s reliance on private commercial ventures to carry vital payloads into space to supply and support the orbiting space station.”

This “private launch” cost us $200.000.000! It is the third such costly failure. How much
more of this nonsense should we allow before we wake up to the fact that we are being
used. PRIVATIZATION IS NOT WHAT HAS MADE THIS COUNTRY GREAT – WHAT HAS MADE AMERICA GREAT IS SOCIAL PROGRAMS THAT HAVE WORKED TO HELP BUILD A STRONG, WORKING MIDDLE CLASS, OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM, AND THE AMERICAN WORKER – ALL ARE IN JEOPARDY.

This is how the private sector works: (St. Louis Post Dispatch)  “The natural  speculation is that UnitedHealthCare is hiding behind the ACA to boost its profits. In a letter to UnitedHealthCare CEO Stephen Hemsley (2010-2013 total compensation: $212 million) last spring, Thomas L. Holloway, executive vice president of the Missouri Medical Association, suggested the company is “cherry-picking … targeting the sickest, most costly patients and summarily terminating the physicians.”


What is really sad is during the last 20 years, the United States has finally socialized risk, but
privatized profit.    Check out this link to read all about it:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-feige/socializing-risk-privatiz_b_129281.html


Let’s think about ourselves on election day:
VOTE FOR AMERICA – VOTE FOR OUR CHILDREN – VOTE FOR YOURSELF – BUT VOTE
Yes, let’s take back our Government – (key words – let'”US” and “OUR”) Aren’t you tired of the few profiting from OUR tax dollars. How about taking a moment to remember when we had the “Greatest Generation” and how there was a growing and prosperous middle class. There was government and there was private sector jobs. There was socialization where it was needed. No merger wars and huge monopolies without regulations. It worked so well – shared prosperity. Mostly gone now – but still time to take it back.

STOP THE PRIVATIZATION OF OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS – REELECT TOM TORLAKSON
GET CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUMS – YES ON PROP 45
NO ON PROP 46
REELECT DAVE JONES
-ELECT ART MOORE.

But, above all, don’t squander one of our most precious rights, get out and vote.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NOBEL PRIZE WINNING ECONOMIST PAUL KRUGMAN.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success

 
When it comes to Barack Obama, I've always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right.
And I wasn't wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP's unwillingness to make even token concessions.
But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn't deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it's working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it's much more effective than you'd think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.
I'll go through those achievements shortly. First, however, let's take a moment to talk about the current wave of Obama-bashing. All Obama-bashing can be divided into three types. One, a constant of his time in office, is the onslaught from the right, which has never stopped portraying him as an Islamic atheist Marxist Kenyan. Nothing has changed on that front, and nothing will.
president obama
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty
There's a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ''posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.'' They're outraged that Wall Street hasn't been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ''neoliberal'' economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained even his much more modest efforts. It's hard to take such claims seriously.
Finally, there's the constant belittling of Obama from mainstream pundits and talking heads. Turn on cable news (although I wouldn't advise it) and you'll hear endless talk about a rudderless, stalled administration, maybe even about a failed presidency. Such talk is often buttressed by polls showing that Obama does, indeed, have an approval rating that is very low by historical standards.
But this bashing is misguided even in its own terms – and in any case, it's focused on the wrong thing.
Yes, Obama has a low approval rating compared with earlier presidents. But there are a number of reasons to believe that presidential approval doesn't mean the same thing that it used to: There is much more party-sorting (in which Republicans never, ever have a good word for a Democratic president, and vice versa), the public is negative on politicians in general, and so on. Obviously the midterm election hasn't happened yet, but in a year when Republicans have a huge structural advantage – Democrats are defending a disproportionate number of Senate seats in deep-red states – most analyses suggest that control of the Senate is in doubt, with Democrats doing considerably better than they were supposed to. This isn't what you'd expect to see if a failing president were dragging his party down.
More important, however, polls – or even elections – are not the measure of a president. High office shouldn't be about putting points on the electoral scoreboard, it should be about changing the country for the better. Has Obama done that? Do his achievements look likely to endure? The answer to both questions is yes.
HEALTH CARE
When Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, an excited Joe Biden whispered audibly, ''This is a big fucking deal!'' He was right.
Related Obamacare, RS issue 1207
Obamacare: It's Working!
The enactment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has been a perils-of-Pauline experience. When an upset in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy cost Democrats their 60-vote Senate majority, health reform had to be rescued with fancy legislative footwork. Then it survived a Supreme Court challenge only thanks to a surprise display of conscience by John Roberts, who nonetheless opened a loophole that has allowed Republican-controlled states to deny coverage to millions of Americans. Then technical difficulties with the HealthCare.gov website seemed to threaten disaster. But here we are, most of the way through the first full year of reform's implementation, and it's working better than even the optimists expected.
We won't have the full data on 2014 until next year's census report, but multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, probably around 10 million, a number certain to grow greatly over the next two years as more people realize that the program is available and penalties for failure to sign up increase.
It's true that the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people in America uninsured. For one thing, it was never intended to cover undocumented immigrants, who are counted in standard measures of the uninsured. Furthermore, millions of low-income Americans will slip into the loophole Roberts created: They were supposed to be covered by a federally funded expansion of Medicaid, but some states are blocking that expansion out of sheer spite. Finally, unlike Social Security and Medicare, for which almost everyone is automatically eligible, Obamacare requires beneficiaries to prove their eligibility for Medicaid or choose and then pay for a subsidized private plan. Inevitably, some people will fall through the cracks.
Still, Obamacare means a huge improvement in the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans – not just better care, but greater financial security. And even those who were already insured have gained both security and freedom, because they now have a guarantee of coverage if they lose or change jobs.
What about the costs? Here, too, the news is better than anyone expected. In 2014, premiums on the insurance policies offered through the Obamacare exchanges were well below those originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office, and the available data indicates a mix of modest increases and actual reductions for 2015 – which is very good in a sector where premiums normally increase five percent or more each year. More broadly, overall health spending has slowed substantially, with the cost-control features of the ACA probably deserving some of the credit.
In other words, health reform is looking like a major policy success story. It's a program that is coming in ahead of schedule – and below budget – costing less, and doing more to reduce overall health costs than even its supporters predicted.
 And some on the left were outraged, arguing that the program would do more to raise profits in the medical-industrial complex than it would to protect American families.
You can still argue that single-payer would have covered more people at lower cost – in fact, I would. But that option wasn't on the table; only a system that appeased insurers and reassured the public that not too much would change was politically feasible. And it's working reasonably well: Competition among insurers who can no longer deny insurance to those who need it most is turning out to be pretty effective. This isn't the health care system you would have designed from scratch, or if you could ignore special-interest politics, but it's doing the job.
And this big improvement in American society is almost surely here to stay. The conservative health care nightmare – the one that led Republicans to go all-out against Bill Clinton's health plans in 1993 and Obamacare more recently – is that once health care for everyone, or almost everyone, has been put in place, it will be very hard to undo, because too many voters would have a stake in the system. That's exactly what is happening. Republicans are still going through the motions of attacking Obamacare, but the passion is gone. They're even offering mealymouthed assurances that people won't lose their new benefits. By the time Obama leaves office, there will be tens of millions of Americans who have benefited directly from health reform – and that will make it almost impossible to reverse. Health reform has made America a different, better place.
 
FINANCIAL REFORM
Let's be clear: The financial crisis should have been followed by a drastic crackdown on Wall Street abuses, and it wasn't. No important figures have gone to jail; bad banks and other financial institutions, from Citigroup to Goldman, were bailed out with few strings attached; and there has been nothing like the wholesale restructuring and reining in of finance that took place in the 1930s. Obama bears a considerable part of the blame for this disappointing response. It was his Treasury secretary and his attorney general who chose to treat finance with kid gloves.
It's easy, however, to take this disappointment too far. You often hear Dodd- Frank, the financial-reform bill that Obama signed into law in 2010, dismissed as toothless and meaningless. It isn't. It may not prevent the next financial crisis, but there's a good chance that it will at least make future crises less severe and easier to deal with.
Dodd-Frank is a complicated piece of legislation, but let me single out three really important sections.
First, the law gives a special council the ability to designate ''systemically important financial institutions'' (SIFIs) – that is, institutions that could create a crisis if they were to fail – and place such institutions under extra scrutiny and regulation of things like the amount of capital they are required to maintain to cover possible losses.  During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney claimed that by announcing that some firms were SIFIs, the government was effectively guaranteeing that they would be bailed out, which he called ''the biggest kiss that's been given to New York banks I've ever seen.''
But it's easy to prove that this is nonsense: Just look at how institutions behave when they're designated as SIFIs. Are they pleased, because they're now guaranteed? Not a chance. Instead, they're furious over the extra regulation, and in some cases fight bitterly to avoid being placed on the list. Right now, for example, MetLife is making an all-out effort to be kept off the SIFI list; this effort demonstrates that we're talking about real regulation here, and that financial interests don't like it.
Another key provision in Dodd-Frank is ''orderly liquidation authority,'' which gives the government the legal right to seize complex financial institutions in a crisis. This is a bigger deal than you might think. We have a well-established procedure for seizing ordinary banks that get in trouble and putting them into receivership; in fact, it happens all the time. But what do you do when something like Citigroup is on the edge, and its failure might have devastating consequences? Back in 2009, Joseph Stiglitz and yours truly, among others, wanted to temporarily nationalize one or two major financial players, for the same reasons the FDIC takes over failing banks, to keep the institutions running but avoid bailing out stockholders and management.
A third piece of Dodd-Frank is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's Elizabeth Warren's brainchild, an agency dedicated to protecting Americans against the predatory lending that has pushed so many into financial distress, and played an important role in the crisis. Warren's idea was that such a stand-alone agency would more effectively protect the public than agencies that were supposed to protect consumers, but saw their main job as propping up banks. And by all accounts the new agency is in fact doing much more to crack down on predatory practices than anything we used to see.
There's much more in the financial reform, there's enough evidence even now to say that there's a reason Wall Street – which used to give an approximately equal share of money to both parties but now overwhelmingly supports Republicans – tried so hard to kill financial reform, and is still trying to emasculate Dodd-Frank. This may not be the full overhaul of finance we should have had, and it's not as major as health reform. But it's a lot better than nothing.
THE ECONOMY
Barack Obama might not have been elected president without the 2008 financial crisis; he certainly wouldn't have had the House majority and the brief filibuster-proof Senate majority that made health reform possible. So it's very disappointing that six years into his presidency, the U.S. economy is still a long way from being fully recovered.
Make no mistake about it – the devastation wrought by the financial crisis was terrible.  Even in advanced countries, the median post-crisis decline in per- capita real GDP is seven percent. Recovery has been slow: It took almost six years for the United States to regain pre-crisis average income. But that was actually a bit faster than the historical average.
Or compare our performance with that of the European Union. Unemployment in America rose to a horrifying 10 percent in 2009, but it has come down sharply in the past few years. It's true that some of the apparent improvement probably reflects discouraged workers dropping out, but there has been substantial real progress. Meanwhile, Europe has had barely any job recovery at all, and unemployment is still in double digits. Compared with our counterparts across the Atlantic, we haven't done too badly.
Did Obama's policies contribute to this less-awful performance? Yes, without question. You'd never know it listening to the talking heads, but there's overwhelming consensus among economists that the Obama stimulus plan helped mitigate the worst of the slump. For example, when a panel of economic experts was asked whether the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus, 82 percent said yes, only two percent said no.
Still, couldn't the U.S. economy have done a lot better? Of course. The original stimulus should have been both bigger and longer. And after Republicans won the House in 2010, U.S. policy took a sharp turn in the wrong direction. Not only did the stimulus fade out, but sequestration led to further steep cuts in federal spending, exactly the wrong thing to do in a still-depressed economy.
We can argue about how much Obama could have altered this literally depressing turn of events. He could have pushed for a larger, more extended stimulus, perhaps with provisions for extra aid that would have kicked in if unemployment stayed high. (This isn't 20-20 hindsight, because a number of economists, myself included, pleaded for more aggressive measures from the beginning.) He arguably let Republicans blackmail him over the debt ceiling in 2011, leading to the sequester. But this is all kind of iffy.
The bottom line on Obama's economic policy should be that what he did helped the economy, and that while enormous economic and human damage has taken place on his watch, the United States coped with the financial crisis better than most countries facing comparable crises have managed. He should have done more and better, but the narrative that portrays his policies as a simple failure is all wrong.
While America remains an incredibly unequal society, and we haven't seen anything like the New Deal's efforts to narrow income gaps, Obama has done more to limit inequality than he gets credit for. The rich are paying higher taxes, thanks to the partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the special taxes on high incomes that help pay for Obamacare; the Congressional Budget Office estimates the average tax rate of the top one percent at 33.6 percent in 2013, up from 28.1 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the financial aid in Obamacare – expanded Medicaid, subsidies to help lower-income households pay insurance premiums – goes disproportionately to less-well-off Americans. When conservatives accuse Obama of redistributing income, they're not completely wrong – and liberals should give him credit.
THE ENVIRONMENT
In 2009, it looked, briefly, as if we might be about to get real on the issue of climate change. A fairly comprehensive bill establishing a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse-gas emissions actually passed the House, and visions of global action danced like sugarplums in environmentalists' heads. But the legislation stalled in the Senate, and Republican victory in the 2010 midterms put an end to that fantasy. Ever since, the only way forward has been through executive action based on existing legislation, which is a poor substitute for the new laws we need.
Related Former US Vice President Al Gore
The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate
But as with financial reform, acknowledging the inadequacy of what has been done doesn't mean that nothing has been achieved. Saying that Obama has been the best environmental president in a long time is actually faint praise, since George W. Bush was terrible and Bill Clinton didn't get much done. Still, it's true, and there's reason to hope for a lot more over the next two years.
president obama
Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times
First of all, there has been much more progress on the use of renewable energy than most people realize. The share of U.S. energy provided by wind and solar has grown dramatically since Obama took office. True, it's still only a small fraction of the total, and some of the growth in renewables reflects technological progress, especially in solar panels, that would have happened whoever was in office. But federal policies, including loan guarantees and tax credits, have played an important role.
Nor is it just about renewables; Obama has also taken big steps on energy conservation, especially via fuel-efficiency standards, that have flown, somewhat mysteriously, under the radar. And it's not just cars. In 2011, the administration announced the first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for medium and heavy vehicles, and in February it announced that these standards would get even tougher for models sold after 2018. As a way to curb green house-gas emissions, these actions, taken together, are comparable in importance to proposed action on power plants.
Which brings us to the latest initiative. Because there's no chance of getting climate-change legislation through Congress for the foreseeable future, Obama has turned to the EPA's existing power to regulate pollution – power that the Supreme Court has affirmed extends to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And this past summer, the EPA announced proposed rules that would require a large reduction over time in such emissions from power plants. You might say that such plants are only a piece of the problem, but they're a large piece – CO2 from coal-burning power plants is in fact a big part of the problem, so if the EPA goes through with anything like the proposed rule, it will be a major step. Again, not nearly enough, and we'll have to do a lot more soon, or face civilization-threatening disaster. But what Obama has done is far from trivial.
NATIONAL SECURITY
So far, i've been talking about Obama's positive achievements, which have been much bigger than his critics understand. I do, however, need to address one area that has left some early Obama supporters bitterly disappointed: his record on national security policy. Let's face it – many of his original enthusiasts favored him so strongly over Hillary Clinton because she supported the Iraq War and he didn't. They hoped he would hold the people who took us to war on false pretenses accountable, that he would transform American foreign policy, and that he would drastically curb the reach of the national security state.
Related
Obama Vs. The Hawks
None of that happened. Obama's team, as far as we can tell, never even considered going after the deceptions that took us to Baghdad, perhaps because they believed that this would play very badly at a time of financial crisis. On overall foreign policy, Obama has been essentially a normal post-Vietnam president, reluctant to commit U.S. ground troops and eager to extract them from ongoing commitments, but quite willing to bomb people considered threatening to U.S. interests. And he has defended the prerogatives of the NSA and the surveillance state in general.
Could and should he have been different? The truth is that I have no special expertise here; as an ordinary concerned citizen, I worry about the precedent of allowing what amount to war crimes to go not just unpunished but uninvestigated, even while appreciating that a modern version of the 1970s Church committee hearings on CIA abuses might well have been a political disaster, and undermined the policy achievements I've tried to highlight. What I would say is that even if Obama is just an ordinary president on national security issues, that's a huge improvement over what came before and what we would have had if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won. It's hard to get excited about a policy of not going to war gratuitously, but it's a big deal compared with the alternative.
SOCIAL CHANGE
In 2004, social issues, along with national security, were cudgels the right used to bludgeon liberals – I like to say that Bush won re-election by posing as America's defender against gay married terrorists. Ten years later, and the scene is transformed: Democrats have turned these social issues – especially women's rights – against Republicans; gay marriage has been widely legalized with approval or at least indifference from the wider public. We have, in a remarkably short stretch of time, become a notably more tolerant, open-minded nation.
As you can see, there's a theme running through each of the areas of domestic policy I've covered. In each case, Obama delivered less than his supporters wanted, less than the country arguably deserved, but more than his current detractors acknowledge. The extent of his partial success ranges from the pretty good to the not-so-bad to the ugly. Health reform looks pretty good, especially in historical perspective – remember, even Social Security, in its original FDR version, only covered around half the workforce. Financial reform is, I'd argue, not so bad – it's not the second coming of Glass-Steagall, but there's a lot more protection against runaway finance than anyone except angry Wall Streeters seems to realize. Economic policy wasn't enough to avoid a very ugly period of high unemployment, but Obama did at least mitigate the worst.
And as far as climate policy goes, there's reason for hope, but we'll have to see.
Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don't care about the fact that Obama hasn't lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn't quite say, a big deal.
I co-opted this from an interview of Krugman by Rolling Stones Magazine, and shortened it somewhat without changing meaning.

Monday, October 27, 2014

RE-BLOGGING WHISTLEBLOWERS.


I’m grateful for the whistleblowers who have provided us with transparency and exposed illegal practices by employers or by the government. California, New Jersey, and New York have friendly whistleblower laws.  I read where some states have made it against the law to report abuses in their states, but I couldn’t find it on the net-yet.

Whistleblower Who Exposed White House Tampering with Climate Science Dies

By Paul Thacker
Rick Piltz passed away last Saturday. He spent decades working in the federal government and state government in Texas, and was a prominent whistleblower during the Bush administration. He later founded Climate Science Watch.
I first met Rick Piltz after reading a 2005 New York Times story exposing a concerted effort by the Bush White House to down play links between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The story was a blockbuster and featured leaked documents with the actual handwritten edits of White House officials. I eventually figured out the leaker was Rick Piltz.
I was working for a science journal and called to ask if he would do a Q&A with us. At that time, I was beginning to realize that the White House was trying to bury and deny scientific evidence that harmed corporate products or was at cross purposes to Republican party ideology. This effort extended to EPA chemical regulations and FDA approval of birth control. That’s why I wanted to interview Piltz. I wanted the view of a veteran government expert to explain to scientists how scientific policy really happens. Not the theory, but the actual practice.

We met at a bar close to the White House in the late afternoon. I wanted a casual discussion in a relaxed environment so I could get him to be as honest as possible. I figured hanging out at a bar over a couple of beers would be best. This was his first time speaking up since he had left the government.
Piltz was nervous and stressed during the interview. He had just left a secure job, because he could no longer take what was happening in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the federal group created to help the nation address global warming. He didn’t know what he was going to do next in his career.
The main White House perpetrator, he told me, was Philip Cooney, a former employee at the American Petroleum Institute, who the White House had hired to coordinate the nation’s reports on climate change. Within days of the New York Times article, Cooney resigned from the White House and was then hired by Exxon Mobil, a company that had a long track record of disseminating disinformation on climate change.
During our talk, Piltz made it clear that the White House was doing everything possible to create confusion on climate change. “With all these arcane debates about climate models and cost–benefit economic models, the general public can’t get their arms around climate change,” he said. What the administration didn’t want was for people to start learning about what was going to happen in their communities: how climate change was going to affect grain farmers in the Midwest, people living on the Gulf Coast, and New Yorkers dealing with a subway system that could get flooded by storm surge.
When you stop discussing arcane scientific algorithms, he said, you create a national discussion. “[Y]ou start talking about real things that affect people.”
What Piltz said nine years ago has come into sharper focus. The year after Piltz went public, hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and devastated New Orleans. Some scientists say it was made more powerful by climate change. In a moment of recent irony, the Secretary of Energy visited Houston, Texas, to warn locals that the city’s petroleum infrastructure—including the Ship Channel and refineries—are vulnerable to climate change. The politics have also evolved. Corn growers in Iowa are worried now that global warming will harm agriculture and formed a political action committee to oppose a politician who denies climate change. Piltz was even right about hurricanes affecting Manhattan subways, something that I thought was absurd at the time. After hurricane Sandy wracked New York City, Lloyds of London stated that the storm surge from sea level rise caused 30 percent of the economic loss. That’s $8 billion in New York alone.

Piltz later founded Climate Science Watch, a program with the Government Accountability Project. He didn’t want another government job, he told me, because he was tired of working for other people and moving their agenda forward. It was time for him to go it alone.
Exposing how the White House was manipulating government reports on climate change spurred congressional investigations and coverage by 60 Minutes and several documentaries. The issue of scientific integrity became so acute that one of President Obama’s first directives after he was elected concerned restoring integrity to the scientific process.
Unlike many in the environmental community, Piltz did not quickly jump on the Obama bandwagon. He knew that the problems dealing with scientific integrity was ingrained in both parties, and he never yielded from criticizing the new President.
Created in part by financially conflicted think tanks and their academic compatriots, a new meme has emerged: scientists who speak out are no longer scientists; they are “activists.” The point is to discredit a scientist who does not sit quietly on the sidelines, publishing research in academic journals that most citizens will never read. Nowhere is this more rampant than in climate science, an area where experts with incredible math skills find their research torn apart by attorneys who probably couldn’t pass a course in differential equations at a local community college.
I honestly have no clue what this term “activist” means. If my doctor, for instance, tells me to eat better or risk cardiovascular disease, I would listen and try and make dietary changes. I wouldn’t think that, by giving medical advice, my doctor was a crusader against cattle ranchers and the potato chip companies.
Piltz spent decades in science policy and had a clear understanding of how science can get distorted, buried and misused if it inconveniences people in power.
“Scientists see politics as beneath them,” he said. “So they don’t learn how to engage policy makers. You can’t just drop some journal article over the transom and hope for the best.”
The danger for scientific experts isn’t just in speaking up. The danger is also remaining silent.
Rick wasn’t afraid to speak up. He will be missed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

NO PRIVILEGED SCHOOLS IN CALIFORNIA, PLEASE.

THIS ARTICLE IS REPRINTED FROM FORBES MAGAZINE,  A CONSERVATIVE MAGAZINE WHOSE EDITORS AND WRITERS KNOW THE MONEY GAME.

"Charter School Gravy Train Runs Express To Fat City"
By  Addison Wiggin

"Too bad the kids in charter schools don’t learn any better than those in plain-vanilla public schools. Stanford University crunched test data from 26 states. About a quarter of charters delivered better reading scores, but more than half produced no improvement, and 19% had worse results. In math, 29% of the charters delivered better math scores, while 40% showed no difference, and 31% fared worse."

PLEASE - JUST READ THIS BEFORE YOUR VOTE
http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2013/09/10/charter-school-gravy-train-runs-express-to-fat-city/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/17/is-the-charter-school-gravy-train-running-express-to-fat-city/

"In Florida, the for-profit school industry flooded legislative candidates with $1.8 million in donations last year."
Nor does the evidence show that charters spend taxpayers’ money more efficiently. Researchers from Michigan State and the University of Utah studied charters in Michigan, finding they spent $774 more per student on administration, and $1,140 less on instruction.

STOP! DO NOT VOTE FOR SCHOOL PRIVATIZATION!!

Dear Friends -
Why would any person vote for school vouchers and the corporate take over of our schools by Wall Street bankers? History is rapidly showing us that charter schools are harming our children by taking our education tax dollars and giving them to a small group of greedy "investors." So by voting for Marshal Tuck, you are indeed voting to give our children's education financing to billionaire investment bankers and hedge fund operators.
For months now I have been trying to tell you the truth - but I am worried that you do not want to take time to learn what is true. So please, take five minutes, read the very conservative Forbes Magazine article that tells it like it is. THEN VOTE FOR TOM TORLAKSON and help him continue to help our students.
Yes, education in California has sucked for 30 years now - we just let it go. It is our fault, California has dropped to 35th in per student spending. Spending is easy to determine, whereas performance can be influenced by many different factors and factions. Our children in California do not rate good, but not bad either. By looking at several different rating organizations, we rank in the "30's" out of 51. Or as one rating group put it, we get a C+. I can remember when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, we were said to be number 1.
The good news is - we are again getting better.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

GETTING THERE IS HALF THE BATTLE.

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Thursday, we went to the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital for Jim’s post-op exam on his right eye and a pre-op exam and scheduling for his left eye surgery. It was our third 141 mile trip (one-way) to the hospital and we finally figured the best way of getting there. With the hospital’s cooperation we were able to leave at 9:30 and miss the horrendous morning traffic, spend the night, get up for early appointments, and leave mid-day and avoid the end of day work traffic. What a difference that made.
I managed to get in about 3 hours of reading and tootled around the hospital and took pictures of artwork and talked to people. We met Bobby Brown, the “muffler man”, again, and spent the dinner hour with him. He is a very interesting guy; chock full of life’s stories.
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Artwork and collections take away the antiseptic appearance of the hospital. This boot quilt pattern is always a fun one to do.
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Children’s bonnets from an Asian country, colorful and bright and cheerful. Much needed elements in a hospital.
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Small musical instruments.
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In one office, I talked to a worker who collects little mouse objects.
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They were really cute. Working people spend most of their day on the job. Personalizing workspace is an accepted practice everywhere you go these days. I hail that practice.

On the way home, we stopped at the Golden Corral Restaurant in Tracy where Jim and I met six years ago. The food got better since our first visit, I’m glad to report.

Back to Murphys and my endless tasks. I’ve been talking about going to Australia and today, I’m going to seriously look at some tours.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TOMORROW, TOMORROW, THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW.

This morning, I bring Karen to the hospital for her surgery early in the morning. Then take Jim to his post-op appointment at Palo Alto Veterans Hospital. Karen's friend Tom will pick her up and bring her home. 
Jim and I return tomorrow. I've been diligently watering and packing stuff off to my storage unit. Fall is definitely here with nights getting down to 43 and 44 degrees. But, no rain in the forecast.
I have a new internet service called Uverse. It is supposed to be much faster than DSL. I don't think it is super fast, but the data you can transfer is huge and  it does play video's which my old system often could or would not.
It seems all we do is TALK about the weather and wish it were better. I got this Weather Trivia in an email from Ron Heinsma and I don't know its origin. Hope you find it amusing.
Weather Trivia.


10 cities with
Least weather variety

Based on temperature variation, precipitation, wind, severe weather
  1. San Francisco, California
  2. San Diego, California
  3. Los Angeles, California
  4. Santa Barbara, California
  5. Eureka, California
  6. Long Beach, California
  7. Honolulu, Hawaii
  8. Santa Maria, California
  9. San Luis Obispo, California
  10. Kahului, Hawaii
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top 10 hail prone cities
Based on frequency and severity of hail
  1. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  2. Amarillo, Texas
  3. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  4. Wichita, Kansas
  5. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  6. Arlington, Texas
  7. Denver, Colorado
  8. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  9. Shreveport, Louisiana
  10. Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top 10 Tropical storm / Hurricane prone cities
Average # of years with no storm. Totals based on data from 1871- 2007, hitting within 60 miles of the city
  1. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
2.49
  1. Delray Beach, Florida
2.54
  1. Hollywood, Florida
2.58
  1. Deerfield Beach, Florida
2.58
  1. Boca Raton, Florida
2.58
  1. Florida City, Florida
2.63
  1. Grand Isle, Louisiana
2.63
  1. Ft. Pierce, Florida
2.69
  1. Miami, Florida
2.69
  1. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
2.69
Top 10 Tornado states
Avg number of tornadoes per 10,000 square
Miles, occurring from 1953-2004
  1. Florida
9.4
  1. Oklahoma
8.2
  1. Kansas
6.7
  1. Iowa
6.6
  1. Illinois
6.2
  1. Indiana
6.1
  1. Mississippi
5.7
  1. Maryland
5.7
  1. Louisiana
5.6
  1. Texas
5.2
Top 10 Thunderstorm
Cities

Avg annual number of thunderstorms
  1. Fort Myers, Florida
89
  1. Tampa, Florida
87
  1. Tallahassee, Florida
83
  1. Gainesville, Florida
81
  1. Orlando, Florida
80
  1. Mobile, Alabama
79
  1. W. Palm Beach, Florida
79
  1. Lake Charles, Louisiana
76
  1. Daytona Beach, Florida
75
  1. Vero Beach, Florida
75
Top 10 Tornado prone cities
Ranked by tornadoes per 1,000 miles
  1. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  2. Tulsa, Oklahoma
  3. Dallas - Ft. Worth, Texas
  4. Wichita, Kansas
  5. Springfield, Missouri
  6. Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri
  7. Ft. Smith, Arkansas
  8. Little Rock, Arkansas
  9. Jackson, Mississippi
  10. Birmingham, Alabama
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top 10 Earthquake prone states
# of earthquakes in the last 30 years
Centered in the state
  1. Alaska
  2. California
  3. Hawaii
  4. Nevada
  5. Washington
  6. Idaho
  7. Wyoming
  8. Montana
  9. Utah
  10. Oregon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
10 all-time hottest
Temperatures

Obtained from state temperature
Records, NCDC
  1. Death Valley, California
134
  1. Lake Havasu, Arizona
128
  1. Laughlin, Nevada
125
  1. Lakewood, New Mexico
122
  1. Alton, Kansas
121
  1. Steele, North Dakota
121
  1. Ozark, Arkansas
120
  1. Tipton, Oklahoma
120
  1. Seymour, Texas
120
  1. Usta, South Dakota
120
10 all-time coldest
Temperatures

Obtained from state temperature
Records, NCDC
  1. Prospect Creek, Alaska
-80
  1. Rogers Pass, Montana
-70
  1. Peters Sink, Utah
-69
  1. Riverside, Wyoming
-66
  1. Maybell, Colorado
-61
  1. Tower, Minnesota
-60
  1. Parshall, North Dakota
-60
  1. Island Park Dam, Idaho
-60
  1. McIntosh, South Dakota
-58
  1. Couderay, Wisconsin
-55
10 hottest cities
Average annual temperature, F
  1. Key West, Florida
77.7
  1. Miami, Florida
75.6
  1. W Palm Beach, Florida
74.6
  1. Ft. Myers, Florida
73.9
  1. Yuma, Florida
73.9
  1. Brownsville, Texas
73.6
  1. Orlando, Florida
72.4
  1. Vero Beach, Florida
72.4
  1. Corpus Christi, Texas
72.1
  1. Tampa, Florida
72.0
10 coldest cities
Average annual temperature, F
  1. International Falls, Minnesota
36.4
  1. Duluth, Minnesota
38.2
  1. Caribou, Maine
38.9
  1. Marquette, Michigan
39.2
  1. Sault Ste Marie, Michigan
39.7
  1. Fargo, North Dakota
40.5
  1. Williston, North Dakota
40.8
  1. Alamosa, Colorado
41.2
  1. Bismarck, North Dakota
41.3
  1. St. Cloud, Minnesota
41.4
10 driest cities
Avg annual precipitation in inches
  1. Yuma, Arizona
2.65
  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
4.19
  1. Bishop, California
5.61
  1. Bakersfield, California
5.72
  1. Phoenix, Arizona
7.11
  1. Alamosa, Colorado
7.13
  1. Reno, California
7.49
  1. Winslow, Arizona
7.64
  1. El Paso, Texas
7.82
  1. Winnemucca, Nevada
7.82
10 wettest cities
Avg annual precipitation in inches
  1. Hilo, Hawaii
128.00
  1. Quillayute, Washington
104.50
  1. Astoria, Oregon
69.60
  1. Blue Canyon, California
67.87
  1. Mobile, Alabama
64.64
  1. Tallahassee, Florida
64.59
  1. Pensacola, Florida
61.16
  1. New Orleans, Louisiana
59.74
  1. W Palm Beach, Florida
59.72
  1. Miami, Florida
59.55
10 snowiest cities
Avg annual precipitation in inches
  1. Blue Canyon, California
240.8
  1. Marquette, Michigan
128.6
  1. Sault Ste Marie, Michigan
116.7
  1. Syracuse, New York
111.6
  1. Caribou, Maine
110.4
  1. Mount Shasta, California
104.9
  1. Lander, Wyoming
102.5
  1. Flagstaff, Arizona
99.9
  1. Sexton Summit, Oregon
97.8
  1. Muskegon, Michigan
97.0
10 windiest cities
Avg annual wind speed in mph
  1. Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts
15.4
  1. Dodge City, Kansas
14.0
  1. Amarillo, Texas
13.5
  1. Rochester, Minnesota
13.1
  1. Casper, Wyoming
12.9
  1. Cheyenne, Wyoming
12.9
  1. Great Falls, Montana
12.7
  1. Goodland, Kansas
12.6
  1. Boston, Massachusetts
12.5
  1. Lubbock, Texas
12.4
10 sunniest cities
Annual percent of possible sunshine
  1. Yuma, Arizona
90%
  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
85%
  1. Phoenix, Arizona
85%
  1. Tucson, Arizona
85%
  1. El Paso, Texas
83%
  1. Flagstaff, Arizona
79%
  1. Fresno, California
79%
  1. Reno, Nevada
79%
  1. Sacramento, California
78%
by Earl Tupper.NEW JERSEY .................. Has the most shopping malls in one area
in the world.NEW MEXICO ............... Smokey the Bear was rescued from a 1950
forest fire here.
NEW YORK .................... Is home to the nation's oldest cattle
ranch, started in 1747 in Montauk.
NORTH CAROLINA ........ Home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.
NORTH DAKOTA ............ Rigby , North Dakota , is the exact
geographic center of North America ..
OHIO ............................. The hot dog was invented here in
1900.
OKLAHOMA ................... The grounds of the state capital are
covered by operating oil wells.
OREGON ......................... Has the most ghost towns in the
country.
PENNSYLVANIA ............. The smiley : ) was first used in 1980
by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University ..
RHODE ISLAND ............. The nation's oldest bar, the White Horse
Tavern, opened here in 1673.
SOUTH CAROLINA ......... Sumter County is home to the world's
largest gingko farm.
SOUTH DAKOTA ............. Is the only state that's never had an
earthquake.
TENNESSEE ....................... Nashville 's Grand Ole Opry is the
longest running live radio show in the world.
TEXAS ............................... Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco
in 1885. The hamburger was invented in Arlington in 1906.
UTAH ................................. The first Kentucky Fried
Chicken restaurant opened here in 1952.
VERMONT ........................ Montpelier is the only state capital
without a McDonald's.
VIRGINIA ........................... Home of the world's largest
office building, The Pentagon.
WASHINGTON .................. Seattle has twice as many college
graduates as any other state.
WASHINGTON D.C. ......... Is the first planned capital in the world.
WEST VIRGINIA .................. Had the world's first brick paved
street, Summers Street, laid in Charleston in 1870.
WISCONSIN ...................... The ice cream sundae was invented here
in 1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting ice cream from
being sold on Sundays.
WYOMING ........................ Was the first state to allow women to
vote.
I hope you enjoyed this. I found it interesting!!!
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ALLIGATOR HUNTING.

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With a signal so weak, I couldn’t finish a blog on Monday.  I turned my Prius in for repair, FINALLY. It was another full day devoted to getting my car fixed after the accident of June 12th. I fought to have my Prius fixed instead of totaled, and after a long process, fraught with hang-ups, (as in the body shopped scheduled to fix it went out of business,) it was delivered to the capable hands of C&C Body Shop in Sonora. While there, we had to wait to pick up a rental car, a silver KIA that fits in my garage.

We went out to lunch in Sonora and when I got home I didn’t feel like cooking. We decided to veg in front of the television with some food and turned on a program called Swamp People. It was an old program series that played from 6:00 to 9:00 and most of it was about Cajun alligator hunters. Having visited that part of the country, having met a couple of alligator hunters, the memories flowed. Those were really exciting times.  We ate a lot of alligator meat in Southern Louisiana, mostly sausage, but we were never part of a hunt. After watching the Swamp People, I felt like I went alligator hunting.
I got so excited, I had to replay my alligator pictures. A different camera, no editing done, so I selected a few pics from the album.
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We took an alligator sighting tour boat into the swamps. The boats in the program and this one are flat bottomed affairs, built by Cajuns for alligator hunting.
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We spotted this big one.
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It was unafraid and the boat didn’t get too close.
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Then we saw this big bull, the guide called him. The broad head is a giveaway.
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I got a second shot of this big bull.  I took two shots of  small gators buried deep in the shallow swamp grasses, but  I had to look three times at my own photos to pick them out. They were well camouflaged, so I didn’t download the pictures. Alligators are fearless and fast. Basically the king predator of the swamps. Their only enemy is man.
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This is a better picture of the type of flat boats the hunters use, though the sides are a bit steeper. This group is fishing for something, but not alligators.
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A picture of a picture of “Mary,"  feeding an alligator to demonstrate to the tour what they look like. She owned the company at one time.  It is too dangerous to “chum” alligators and the company quit the practice. The picture didn’t say if this event was at an alligator farm or in the wild. Alligator skin is more valuable than the meat.
Dirty Miller cookin'

Near Little Chenier, we met a real alligator hunter who goes by the name of Dirty Miller. We were looking for the town of Little Chenier, or remnants of it. It was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. Up against a choice, where the pavement ended,  a gravel road in front of us, without knowing where it came out, we stopped. We turned around in Miller’s driveway and he hollered at us to “com’on, dinner will be ready in a half an hour.”  Miller is the epitome of Southern hospitality and a real character.
Wiped out by Katrina, Miller built a large shed on the spot where his house once stood. It was flooded by Rita and he showed us the water line on the walls of his shed.  In that pot was a big stew and we joined him and his friends for a Sunday afternoon dinner and listened raptly to alligator hunting stories and many other tales.  He had pictures of Donald Trump and some other notables, (I no longer remember the names,)  people he took alligator hunting. We ended up spending the night.  Dirty Miller and his girl friend cooked us a giant omelet for breakfast the next morning with shrimp, crawfish, crab and alligator sausage. One of our favorite, memorable stops in Louisiana.
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This is a picture of a picture of Dirty Miller’s grandson sitting on a gator he killed. I’m savoring the memories again through my pictures. My only regret is that I didn’t take more pictures of this fascinating guy and his friends.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

ANGELS CAMP GOLD RUSH FAIR.

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It was a good decision to take a day off and attend the Angels Camp Gold Rush Fair. It was the first time for me. Town was full and people were having a good time.
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In the Chamber Of Commerce/Visitors Center parking area was a food court, a band and a few set-ups of what living in the gold rush era was like, with barrels and sacks and a reference to Henry Angel for whom the camp was,  and now the town is named.
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You didn't have to go camping, because life was lived in a "camp". During Angels Camp's 75th anniversary of the incorporation of the town, Mayor Betsy Alford managed to find descendents of Henry Angel and invited them to participate, and several of them came to celebrate.
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Operating in the lot, a modern gold washer demonstrating how gold rich gravels are sucked up onto  riffles that allow heavy gold to sink to the bottom of the washer and the rest of the rock and dirt flows back into the stream. This one has a powerful motor. The old-timers didn't have that advantage. Their "sluice boxes" were propped in the river and bottom gravel was hand shoveled onto the riffles. It was cold, wet,  hard work.
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I didn't ask, but I think these folks were selling covered wagon rides. A beautiful team, in any event.
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The townspeople are encouraged to dress in rustic clothing and many did.
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These buck skinned dudes and their ladies are part of a staged gunfight they have on the street, which we missed and left before their next one.
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I admired this dude's fox skin cap. What a beautiful cap but I did feel sorry the fox had to give its life for it.
Maria Behn as Patsy Kline

Maria Behn is an excellent Patsy Cline impersonator and we enjoyed listening to her sing. Her husband is a vet and they live in the county near San Andreas.
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A young juggler kept the crowd mesmerized with his various feats. Looking at everyone's faces while he tossed those knives around was as much fun as his patter. He quipped: "Look at me, I graduated from Bret Harte High School and I'm doing fine."
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He could cut apples. Not only cut them, but bite them while juggling three knives. He finished the apple/knife bit with a flourish, stabbing one. He was fun.
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Jim quipped to this girl, "Aah, a real genuine red-head," knowing that she wasn't, to which she answered, "and I was a real genuine blonde yesterday."
We had a great bowl of chili for lunch. The fair is an annual event they've put on for about 4 or 5 years. I like meeting old friends I haven't seen in a long time, and I did see some locals I knew, but Gary and Denise Lindsay, who are old friends from the Sheriff's Department days, surprised me. They've retired to Sonora area, in Tuolumne County, and love the Mother Lode and came over to enjoy the festivities.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

GULF COAST BIRDS.

The passenger pigeon of yesterday reminded me of some of the beautiful birds I've seen and had the opportunity to photograph. Here is an album from the Texas gulf coast.
2013-Gulf Coast Birds
These pictures are copyrighted, 2013, Mary Matzek

Friday, October 17, 2014

SAVORING WHAT WE HAVE LEFT.

Business and society thrive by investing in nature. I have Pax World Mutual Funds and their newsletter editor declared that human caused climate change is real. They busted the myths about climate change quite soundly.  Whether our representatives and senators want to believe it or deny it and fail to deal with climate change, corporations are preparing for the changes ahead. And Pax is adjusting their portfolios to include major corporations who are preparing for climate change NOW. I was so pleased to hear that.
September 1st, 2014 is designated as the 100 year mark when the last passenger pigeon died-a species that once numbered in the billions. It is the first acknowledged human caused extinction. To draw attention to how serious extinctions are, Andy Stern, a neurologist and activist has begun a project called fold the flock. They have a pattern for an origami passenger pigeon that you can fold. There are a number of different ways they will display them around the country. I'm going to do it, one for each of my grandsons.

http://foldtheflock.org/

We need to take climate change and extinctions seriously consider that there are only seven living white Rhinoceros in the Ol Pejeta  conservancy in Kenya.

In 2013 fifty-nine regular rhinos were killed for their horns and 302 elephants for their tusks. Their herds are now down to hundreds and extinction is likely in our lifetimes unless something dramatic changes.
With better co-operation between government and native populations, by making it profitable for natives to protect elephants and rhinos, this year, only 3 rhinos were killed and they are heavily guarded to the point were guards are corralling and sleeping with them.

We are all diminished by these extinctions. Please be an activist and do what you can to save our endangered species where and when you can. Subscribe to one of the magazines or environmental groups, like The Nature Conservancy, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Scientific American, African Wildlife Conservation, Natural Resources Defense council, (NRDC), Environmental Defense Fund, Living Oceans...  There are hundreds of hardworking non-profit groups fighting the battle. Let's help so our children and grandchildren can savor what we have left.