Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Powerful and Obnoxious Odor of Mendacity

It was very gratifying to learn that Obama is going to install solar power on the White House roof (after rejecting the students and members of; but this is mostly a symbolic act.  More ominously, his recent appointment to the Department of Agriculture is uncomfortably reminiscent of the prior administration's infamous revolving doors.  Government employees routinely went from regulatory positions directly to lucrative consultation with the very industries they were supposed to be regulating...and back again!
For the next four photos I am grateful to cherished friend and commenter Susan Shamel, who sent them  from her visit to Ohio.  The trees there are also losing leaves precipitously.

Such criminal practices, which continued in far too many instances unchecked by the Obama administration, made possible the epic fails in oversight by the egregious transgressions of employees of the Minerals Management Service  - which in turn led to the worst environmental disaster ever in the history of the United States...the ongoing death spiral of the Gulf of Mexico.
The needles of even young conifers are turning brown - a sign of  cumulative years of exposure to ozone.
Our government agencies, which are supposed to protect the public (and are funded by our taxes!), are hostage to - if not complicit with - the likes of banking lobbyists who engineered the deregulation which led to the collapse of the economy...The logging industry infects the forest service...Monoculture factory farming which dominates the USDA, and dictates their lies about the effects of the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers...and Let's not even consider the contamination of the most powerful entities, the energy to the corrupt Interior Department:
"Under the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, the Interior Department's maintenance backlog climbed from $5 billion to $8.7 billion, despite Bush's campaign pledges to eliminate it completely. Of the agency under Bush's leadership, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney has cited a "culture of fear" and of "ethical failure." Devaney has also said, "Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of Interior."
 I don't know why he bothered to add the caveat "short of a crime."
Let's hope under Lisa Jackson the EPA will disassociate themselves from the Air and Waste Management Association (read about them here) where amoral polluters are busy figuring out ways to make even more money - from the public - for cleaning up the messes they have made!
Susan and her mother visited a family burial site.  In the background, the trees have lost much of their leaves already in these first days of October.
Getting back to Obama - following are excerpts from the article in Grist about his recent appointment, and photos from the past few day around Wit's End.

"Earlier this month, Congress approved Obama's nomination of Catherine Woteki, the USDA's undersecretary for research, education, and economics. The appointment drew little attention in the press, including the sustainable-food blogosphere. That's surprising, because Woteki comes to her new position after a five-year stint as global director of scientific affairs for Mars, Inc., the multinational junk-food giant."
This little tree displays a common trait - older leaves that are darkened and shriveled from a longer period of time of ozone exposure - and the healthier, newer, larger leaves at the tips of branches.
Unfortunately those newer healthier leaves will be insufficient to save the life of this tree, because the damage is already so advanced as to cause the bark, covered with lichen, to fall off.  These raw patches will be attacked by pathogens.
The leaves upon closer inspection aren't turning fall color, rather, they display the sort of stomatal destruction that occurs from ozone toxicity.
"In her new role, Woteki will direct the U.S. government's entire agricultural research budget. That means she will supervise Roger Beachy, head of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, who oversees the USDA's billion-dollar-a-year competitive grants program. Beachy is a genetic scientist with strong ties to GM seed giant Monsanto; he is openly hostile to organic agriculture. At a time when U.S. farms desperately need to move toward more sustainable methods, federally supported agriculture research has fallen into the hands of a Monsanto man answering to a junk-food exec."
A complete bare crown, far in advance of when branches should be bare.
The trunk up close, with bark splitting.  The remainder of this post will have photos of trees and their bark - the deterioration from BALDing - Bark Atrophy Lichen Decline - is spectacular.
"Somewhere in the East Wing, Michelle Obama must be fuming. The first lady has labored hard to fight the rising tide of diet-related maladies among children -- and her husband has now handed the nation's agricultural research agenda to someone who recently owed her living to robust sales of stuff like Milky Way, M&M's, Twix, Skittles, Wrigley's gum, and Snickers bars, all heavily marketed to kids.  "
Here's a formerly magnificent maple (compare the size to the fire hydrant in the background) - and note all the leaves on the ground already.
Here's the trunk looking up to a transparent crown...
And here's the bark!
with more splitting, and curling off especially at the top left.
With its $30 billion in annual revenue, Mars is the sixth-largest privately held company in the United States. In addition to heavily sweetened candy, Mars churns out convenience fare like Uncle Ben's rice and pet food like Whiskas brand. 
The thin top of a maple
A chunk fallen off from the bark
"Woteki has a PhD in nutrition. It would be interesting to hear her blunt thoughts on the nutritional value of Skittles, which contain the following ingredients 
Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Less than 2 percent Citric Acid, Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Coloring (includes Yellow 6 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 1), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)"
[For a recreational look at the declining vegetation around Jacqueline Mars Vogel's Bedminster home, written last year, click on this post.]
"Woteki's new post represents a return to, not her debut at, the USDA (bio here). She held a variety of high-level positions in the agency under Bill Clinton, including a stint in the same position she now holds. The Clinton administration was generally quite friendly to the interests of Big Food. Woteki epitomized the administration's gung-ho attitude toward genetically modified (GM) seed industry in a 1996 paper she co-wrote on "The Administration's Responsibility to the Consumer" in regards to GM seeds. The paper never mentions potential ecological or public-health issues around GM seeds; it concludes, in essence, that the government's only responsibility to the public concerning the technology is to support it vigorously."
I couldn't find a youtube with the quote in the title of this post - one of my favorites! - so here instead is a tectonic scene from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", which is a deeply emotional precursor to all comments ever since about consumerism and "unsustainability."

I don't want to go all anecdotal about crop yields affected by exposure to ozone, although I would be very interested to know if anyone other than me has noticed that avocados (which I LOVE) are significantly smaller than they used to let's stick to the facts.  One has to do with the dearth of kimchi, which doesn't sound particularly life-threatening, but happens to be a staple in the Korean diet:
Napa cabbage harvests dropped 40 percent to 151,000 tons in the nine months through September, compared with 252,000 tons in the same period last year, due to "abnormal climate changes," the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries says.

The price of one head of the cabbage soared to 10,000 won (about $8) this week at markets and grocery stores, up more than six fold from last year's 1,600 won and three times that of last month's 3,000 won.

South Koreans consume an estimated 1.45 million tons of kimchi a year, said Lee Jeong-sik, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Of that, 450,000 tons are made at factories, and the rest at homes or by restaurants...
"I don't know how long I can keep ignoring my grandkids and my husband's demands for kimchi every meal," said Kim Hyung-sook, who lives in northern Seoul. "You're not Korean if you don't eat kimchi three times a day."
Market Skeptics has (more) evidence of USDA mendacity in reporting a miraculous find of corn, engaging in their usual manipulation of markets to keep prices low and avert consumer panic and rage.  I recommend reading that post and comparing the Agriculture Department's sunny optimism with the outright cynicism and rage of the farmers posting comments on their own blogs.
As with corn, there is a certain amount of obfuscation going on about the pumpkin harvest.  Although the supply was so short - supposedly due to rain - in 2009 that people were hoarding and then selling cans on e-bay, this year it is being proclaimed that the harvest has recovered...even though the rain was again abnormally high, and not accounting for farmers planting more acreage in response to the 2009 spike in prices.  Keep in mind that all sorts of fruiting vines, like watermelon, squash, and pumpkin are especially susceptible to damage from ozone.  From the first article linked:
"Libby's Pumpkin, a company under the Nestle umbrella, cultivates about 5,000 to 6,000 acres of its special Libby's Select pumpkin in the "pumpkin capital" of Morton, Ill., near Peoria. There, rainfall totals are at almost 150 percent of normal precipitation for May through Sept. 24."
A fallen branch floats on a pond.
 "Typically, Peoria gets about 18 inches of rain in that five-month time frame. In 2010, Peoria has been doused with almost 26.5 inches."
Some humor on the general topic by the Onion, forwarded by RPauli:
"WASHINGTON—Citing a desire to gain influence in Washington, the American people confirmed Friday that they have hired high-powered D.C. lobbyist Jack Weldon of the firm Patton Boggs to help advance their agenda in Congress."
"Known among Beltway insiders for his ability to sway public policy on behalf of massive corporations such as Johnson & Johnson, Monsanto, and AT&T, Weldon, 53, is expected to use his vast network of political connections to give his new client a voice in the legislative process."
"Weldon is reportedly charging the American people $795 an hour.
"Unlike R.J. Reynolds, Pfizer, or Bank of America, the U.S. populace lacks the access to public officials required to further its legislative goals," a statement from the nation read in part. "Jack Weldon gives us that access."
"His daily presence in the Capitol will ensure the American people finally get a seat at the table," the statement continued. "And it will allow him to advance our message that everyone, including Americans, deserves to be represented in Washington."
"The 310-million-member group said it will rely on Weldon's considerable clout to ensure its concerns are taken into account when Congress addresses issues such as education, immigration, national security, health care, transportation, the economy, affordable college tuition, infrastructure, jobs, equal rights, taxes, Social Security, the environment, housing, the national debt, agriculture, energy, alternative energy, nutrition, imports, exports, foreign relations, the arts, and crime.
Sources confirmed that Weldon is already scheduled to have drinks Monday with several members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss saving the middle class."
"If you have a problem, say, with America's atrocious treatment of its veterans, you can't just pick up a phone and call your local congressman," Weldon told reporters from his office on K Street Monday. "You need someone on the inside who understands how democracy works; someone who knows how to grease the wheels a little."
"According to Washington heavyweights, hiring Weldon is an immediate game changer and should force politicians to take citizens' concerns seriously for the first time in decades. Moreover, sources said, Weldon will be able to help lawmakers see the American people as more than just a low-priority fringe group."
"Jack is very good at what he does," said Joseph Pearlman, a headhunter for the McCormick Group who specializes in placing lobbyists. "He can take an issue that is nowhere on the congressional radar, like the pursuit of happiness, for example, and make it politically relevant. The next time Congress passes a bill dealing with civil rights or taxes, I wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. populace is mentioned somewhere in the final language."
For a well-done and succinct analysis of government of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation, with nifty charts, visit the most recent post at Decline of the Empire.
Bad as the destruction is, what follows are pictures only a necrophiliac could view without shuddering with horror, deep in their soul:
The entry to Natirar.
Leaves examined closely are not bright fall colors, but singed and burnt.
True for those chestnut leaves and these maples.  No species is immune.
Trunks are raw.
Perhaps the saddest is this type of decline, which may be related to fungal invasion.  The wood is  weeping.
It stains the bark, and then the bark begins, under the influence of lichen, to disintegrate.
A tall oak in Far Hills, and  the bark of its trunk, riddled with holes.
And here's the personal note:  somebody unbeknownst to us thought enough of first daughter's performance in the competition last weekend to blog on it...and, put a video on youtube!  For those who aren't familiar with it, dressage is all about control (on the part of the rider) and obedience (on the part of the horse).  First daughter's breeding and training skills will make her invaluable in the post-carbon world.

Fiction is so much better than reality.  Sometimes when the unimaginable horror ahead bears down on me - like whenever I look at a tree with its bark falling off - I pretend I'm just a character in a novel.  Here's a delicious bit of fantasy posted on Palingates:

The trees are screaming in agony.  How can people not hear their cries of despair?


  1. Wow! God just seems to send more oppurtunities for me to help all the time! I was doing a lab on acids and bases and our tap water had a ph of 6. This is with ph paper. I will try to test the rain today or when it rains. That will help narrow things down.

    Heres some interesting links.


  4. Ah, thank you for those links Highschooler! You are doing some excellent and relevant research, especially to the adlehyde connection, which intrigues me.

    I have to paint my banner for Sunday tonight - but when I get a chance I will read them all, and post them on the Basic Premise Page.

    Do you want to take pictures for Wit's End??

  5. you could just sent them as an attachment in an email.


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