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Oil and Slaughter

September 22, 2011

Took the picture of the bugger above as it and several of its friends were trying to dispatch my potato plants. Hard to tell from the picture but they were up to an inch and a half long. Never seen the like of this before and it is a rather interesting and beautiful insect with its deep metallic blue carapace so I allowed its feast to continue until I could determine what it was.

Turns out it’s a member of the genus meloe, also known as the American Oil beetle or blister beetle, thusly named because if disturbed it plays dead and secretes an oily liquid from the joints of its exoskeleton which blisters human skin. And then there was this –

First-instar larvae climb to the top of a grass or weed stalk as a group, clump together in the shape of a female solitary ground bee, exude a scent that is the same as, or closely resembles, the pheromones of the female bee, and wait for a male ground bee to come along. When he does, he tries to mate with the clump of larvae, whereupon they individually clamp onto his hairs. He then flies away, finds and mates with one or several real female bees, and the larvae transfer to the female(s).
Each impregnated female bee then flies off and builds one to several nests in burrows she digs in the soil, and the larvae transfer again to the new nests. The female bee stocks these nests with honey and pollen for her own young, but the hungry blister beetle young are there to gobble up the provisions. They eventually pupate and finally emerge as adult flightless beetles. Brothers and sisters find each other and mate, produce eggs and the hatchlings start the process all over.

I’d had quite a few honey bees and bumble bees enjoying my sunflowers this year. I’d kind of like them to come back for the next. And this was just lovely-

Then there are the bipedal primates who use cantharidin from blister beetles to manufacture the notorious date rape drug, Spanish Fly…

After weighing the pollinators against those who would eat them and my potatoes and having visions of the next decade’s teenage boys pocketing a couple beetles before taking the squidlette to the drive in, the beetles’ fates were sealed. They attempted to retaliate as I took a stick and knocked them from their perches, trying to give me gangrene by spitting their oily yellow pus at me, but resistance turned out to be futile and they were eventually squashed under a heavy block of granite. No baby bees for the blister beetles this year but I imagine their carcasses made the ant colony in my back yard very happy and the circle of life continues.

The Joy of Parenting

September 2, 2011

Happy Birthday squidlette!!

But what with the grandparents and neighbors coming to visit a house torn apart by a three year old, it would have been really nice if you had taken a nap.

Rat Fiiiiiiiiiiiight!!!!!!!!!!!

August 8, 2011

Well well well! It’s been several years since reading the morning news brought as big a grin to my face as it did today.

It wasn’t just the banks and insurers whose financial sleight of hand caused the financial meltdown that began in 2008; the debt rating agencies aided and abetted the rest of them by issuing bogus positive ratings in exchange for large fees from the clients they rated. None of them have been held to account as much of what passes for a regulatory regime has been captured by the very industries it’s supposed to regulate. So, rather than receiving punishment for this illegal activity, the bankers and insurers were rewarded with trillions in government cash while the rest of us have been harnessed with “austerity measures” wherein we all pay for the money the ratfuckers stole. Oh sure, there were attempts to make it appear to the rubes that reforms were being instituted like the toothless Dodd-Frank legislation. Jon Oliver from the Daily Show did a much better job of describing why it’s such an abysmal failure a couple weeks ago and if you haven’t seen this absolutely hilarious bit, do yourself a favor and watch it here.

The government had made some tepid attempts to regulate the ratings agencies like Standard and Poor’s, requiring them to issue honest assessments or face stiff penalties. Of course an honest assessment of their clients would likely mean those clients wouldn’t pay S&P for any further ratings so S&P fought the attempted reforms tooth and nail.

Until last week when they suddenly got religion and now all hell is breaking loose.

S&P decided first to threaten and then actually downgrade US government debt from its historical AAA rating which to this blogger seems like a very transparent attempt to get the government to back off from regulating them. It caused the US and foreign stock markets to crater beginning at the end of last week. Today brings the news via Zerohedge that S&P is focusing its sights on the financial titans it once coddled, with Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway being the first to receive the bad news. S&P seems to be of the opinion that if it’s going down, it’s going to take a few others with them. Side note : Buffet is certainly no saint but he has been critical highly critical of how the financial industry is run and has called for much higher taxes on those in his income bracket. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is why S&P chose to target him.

Tim Geithner, who presided over this financial free for all and had absolutely no problem with it as long as everyone could pretend the banks were doing us all a favor, has now chided S&P for its recent assessments claiming they have gone too far. Boo fucking hoo.

Meanwhile, Bank of America is being sued from all sides for passing fraudulent loans up the securitization chain, with enormous bailout recipient AIG being the latest to seek their pound of flesh. Of course AIG is hardly blameless as they were more than happy to issue insurance against these bonds and take the easy money, even though there has been ample evidence presented that at least some high ranking AIG execs were well aware of the fraud as it was going on and chose to look the other way to keep the big bonuses rolling in. Since B of A looks like it might go tits up real soon, good luck AIG in trying to get blood from a sinking stone.

So the rats, having devoured all they can from the rest of us, are now turning on each other. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

Here’s hoping this is the beginning of the end of this ridiculous charade.

Tips for Citizens of Empire in Decline

July 26, 2011

What with elected “leaders” everywhere fighting it out for who can fuck over their constituents the most, the above might come in handy. Coming soon to a vermin infested refuse village near you!

The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing

July 7, 2011

Used the same musical accompaniment in a different context in this post a couple years back but it is more appropriate then ever with today’s news that Bushwa Barry is set to slash the country’s social safety net to benefit his Wall Street pals, using the blatantly hypocritical excuse that the government cannot simply just raise the debt ceiling, which of course they could if they actually gave a damn about anything other than enriching their cronies. This isn’t really news to anybody who’s been watching Barry’s sharp right turn ever since election day but it is a little surprising that he’s pushing to slash more than even the republican troglodytes had demanded. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent summary of the latest here so I won’t blather on too much about it. The George Carlin video that Greenwald included gives you all you need to know if you hadn’t already learned it from Frank –

In other news, SPAM futures skyrocketed today.

If people in this country are actually going to fight back, now would be the time to do so. Otherwise, start stocking up on the potted meat.

Ευτυχώς

June 28, 2011

The Greek word “Eυτυχώς” translates to English as “fortunately”, and fortunately there is at least one country who is willing to tell the oligarchs of the world where they can shove their “austerity” measures. The Greeks have been relentless in their protest and the latest general strike began today. As you can see from the photos, this is not a namby-pamby protest of the type we in the US are accustomed to where all measures are taken NOT to upset the Powers That Be too much. Not in favor of riots generally, but when all other options have been exhausted and the government is not responsive to the will of the people, sometimes it takes a brick through a window to get the government’s attention. This would appear to be one of those times, as the oligarchs continue to spout the nonsense that bailing out criminal bankers at the expense of the citizenry is really for the people’s own good, even though it was already tried once and was an abysmal failure. More on what’s currently going on with video and pics here, here, and here. This one has some good pics and a rather ambiguous headline – They still don’t get it: Tens of thousands of Greeks take to streets for anti-austerity protests as national strike begins.

Not sure whether the “they” in the headline refers to the oligarchs or the protesters, but judging by the conservative bent of the paper I’m assuming that it’s the latter. Being a lowest-common-denominator type British tabloid, perhaps they’re trying to pre-emptively ward off similar events from happening in their own country as the British oligarchs try to put the screws to their populations.

The picture on the right shows a gallows erected right in front of the Parliament building in Syntagma Square. I’m probably losing some idiosyncrasy since my Greek is not all that great, but “κουφα λες” translates roughly as “Deaf you say!”. I’m assuming it means something to the effect that they do hear but still don’t like what’s coming out of Papandreou’s yap.

Check out this video from a member of a group called 300 Greeks who have been peacefully protesting in Syntagma for the last month straight. Very good assessment of the situation. He mentions that some of the more violent protesters may be there as provocateurs to justify crackdowns (which always seems to be the case) and also gives a pretty good defense of the argument that the Greeks brought this all on themselves by asking for too many government handouts.

Since none of the links here mention the elephant in the room, I will remind our vast readership that it was the ratfuckers from Goldman Sachs who constructed all the swap deals that were doomed from the get go and then told the Greeks it would solve all their financial problems. That’s where the majority of the blame for this belongs and the Greek people at least see that quite clearly. Maybe one of these days the oligarchs will realize that the Greeks just aren’t that into Western-style capitalism and stop trying to force it down their throats.

Vasilis Papakonstantinou is one of my favorite Greek musicians and from what I can tell he leans decidedly to the left (whatever that means). His first album from the late 70’s, Ta Agrotika, talks about the plight of small town rural people. This song, also called Ευτυχώς, is from an album from the late 90s and I’ve always liked the sentiment of it, which is particularly apt in light of current events. Here’s a very rough translation of the first part of the chorus: Fortunate is the country that proves itself worthy in the tavernas, plazas, and the streets.

Take us on out Vasili and fuck ’em up Greeks!

Round Peg, Square Hole Revisited

June 13, 2011

The above is a composite infrared image of the nebula surrounding the star system MWC 922. You’ll notice it’s square and nobody seems to know why. One explanation is listed here

A leading progenitor hypothesis for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922, these cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the sides. Supporting evidence for the cone hypothesis includes radial spokes in the image that might run along the cone walls. Researchers speculate that the cones viewed from another angle would appear similar to the gigantic rings of supernova 1987A, possibly indicating that a star in MWC 922 might one day itself explode in a similar supernova.

Astronomers have been keeping a close eye on SN1987A, named for the year in which the light from the star’s explosion reached the earth. The remnants of that one recently lit up like a Xmas tree after a couple decades of cooling and you can see a neat-O image of it from the Hubble telescope here. Clearly it doesn’t appear square from the vantage point of our blue marble at least.

The hypothesis proposed does make sense since not every phenomenon up in the sky faces the earth from the most convenient vantage point for viewing. But… Maybe I’ve been reading too many sci-fi novels again, but if an unexplained artifact were discovered on this planet showing straight edges and right angles, the most likely conclusion would be that somebody at some point made it that way.

While that is very likely not the case here, it sure is fun to think about.