Crap Fish

Farmed fish taste like crap. Now we know they're crap for the environment too. Consider this: Steelhead trout bred in hatcheries are so genetically impaired that even if they survive and reproduce in the wild their offspring are significantly less successful at reproducing.

The study in Biology Letters suggests adding hatchery fish to wild populations could hurt efforts to sustain the wild runs.

The data reveal that fish born in the wild from hatchery-reared parents averaged only 37 percent the reproductive fitness of fish with two wild parents. Fish born in the wild from one hatchery-reared parent and one wild parent averaged only 87 percent the reproductive fitness

Most significantly, these differences were detectable after a full generation of natural selection in the wild.

The problem arises from the fact that fish who do well in the safe world of the hatcheries are selected to be different from those that do well in the predatory real world.

And, no, using wild fish as brood stock each year does not solve the problem. Exactly that type of steelhead were used in this study. Yet apparently even one generation of hatchery culture produces strong negative effects on wild fish.

The implications reach far beyond steelhead. Captive breeding is a cornerstone of recovery efforts for many endangered species. This study raises doubts that such programs actually work.

This research was based on years of genetic analysis of thousands of steelhead trout in Oregon's Hood River in field work since 1991. Scientists genetically fingerprinted three generations of returning fish to determine who their parents were and whether they were wild or hatchery fish.

That's the beauty of long-term research. May we fund more of it.

Want to know what's better to eat—if you must eat the wildlife of the sea? There's even an iPhone app to guide you through the menu.

Chart of the Day

Pew's recent polling report, "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2009," is chock full of fascinating nuggets, not least of which is its surprisingly robust finding of substantially increased political polarization over the past 20 years.  Also: the continuing demise of the GOP and the continuing triumph of more liberal social values among all age cohorts.  On the downside: environmentalism is looking pretty ragged.  Bloggers looking for inspiration should have no trouble finding plenty of good stuff here.

At the moment, however, I guess I'm in the mood for some idle chitchat.  Namely, how do we explain this particular chart?  Take a look at just the last two data points, which show the effect of the current recession.  Rich people feel lousy: their financial satisfaction has plummeted 20 percentage points.  But the recession has had only a minor effect on the financial satisfaction of the upper middle class and it's had no effect at all on the lower middle class and the poor.

Why?  One possible explanation is that the bottom three classes had already gotten most of their dissatisfaction out of the way: compared to the start of the Bush era, they were already at least ten points more dissatisfied by 2007.  They just didn't have much further to fall.  The rich, by contrast, had been getting richer and more satisfied all along, so when the recession hit, it hit hard.

I'm not sure I buy that, though.  It's intuitively reasonable that when people get into a long-term funk over their stagnant (or worsening) finances, a new shock to the system just gets added to the pile and shrugged off.  But there are shocks and there are shocks, and this particular recession has produced rising gasoline prices, substantially higher levels of unemployment and underemployment, millions of home foreclosures, and a huge loss of housing wealth even for those who have kept their homes.  Those are the kinds of shocks people don't just shrug off.

The rich becoming less financially satisfied is easy to understand.  But why is it that the non-rich seem to be mostly taking things in stride?  Some kind of weird Obama optimism effect?  A sudden realization that plasma TVs aren't all they're cracked up to be?  I'm a little stumped here.

(Via Ramesh Ponnuru.)

James von Brunn, the suspect in the Holocaust Museum shootings, has been an extremist in many ways.

In a tirade posted in a in a Christian Separatist group in Yahoo, he pushed a 9/11 conspiracy theory:

The FBI now believes that Israel intelligence, working closely with rogue U.S. and other foreign intelligence units, may be responsible for or otherwise deeply involved in the World Trade Center implosions and other acts of terrorism against the United States.

In a Support the Confederate Flag group on Yahoo, he exclaimed:

FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), a super-market NAFTA, is the spawn of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade). Both were adjuncts of the United Nations. GATT was the creation of Harry Dexter White (Weiss), Jew, and Undersecretary of the Treasury. He was the spy who stole U.S. Treasury printing plates, giving them to the Soviets which printed millions (billions?) of U.S. dollars, which ended up in the pockets of "gassed" Jews. White also was the prime mover behind The International Monetary Fund, and The World Bank –designed to help bankers at the expense of American taxpayers. His friend Alger Hiss, another Soviet spy, working for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was architect of the United Nation’s Charter. White’s boss, Henry Morganthau, Jew, whose infamous Morganthau Plan was designed to starve to death the entire German nation following WWII, was FDR’s confidant. From this cess-pool of Jews and traitors came the FTAA which in 1994, with Congressional blessings, changed its name to WTO (World Trade Organization).

In the Ron Paul for President group on Yahoo, he complained that a Harvard professor had supposedly called for killing all white people. He also posted a piece saying that Hitler's worst mistake was that "he didn't gas the Jews."

But he also had artistic ambitions. On another website, von Brunn, responding to an article claiming that the CIA, the KGB, or the Mossad were behind the Bali bombing of 2002, posted this message last year:

Yours is an excellent site. Thanks for your efforts. KEEP FIGHTING!
I HAVE WRITTEN A MOVIE-SCRIPT SET DURING U.S. CIVIL WAR. MANY PROBLEMS CHALLENGING THE SOUTH HAVE PARALLELS TODAY. PLS. PUT ME IN CONTACT WITH A MOVIE PRODUCER-DIRECTOR OF MEL GIBSON’S PROFESSIONALISM. WE ALL WILL PROFIT. JVB

He didn't explain the plot of his script.

Strapped Colleges Spurn Students

Things are not looking good for needy college applicants. Last week, I blogged about how the USNWR rankings rat race gives first-generation college students the short shrift. Today, the NY Times reports that because of financial problems, Reed College plans to substitute 100 of its poorest eligible applicants for potential students who don't require aid. Admissions officers at Reed were admirably candid with the Times about the painful nature of the decision:

The whole idea of excluding a student simply because of money clashed with the college’s ideals, Leslie Limper, the aid director, acknowledged. “None of us are very happy,” she said, adding that Reed did not strike anyone from its list last year and that never before had it needed to weed out so many worthy students. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m still doing this.”

The private college in Oregon isn't the only one making tough admissions decisions because of the recession. Here's how budget cuts are affecting needy students at some other schools:

The Commission on Wartime Contracting delivered its interim report (PDF) Wednesday to members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Created in July 2007, the Commission is an independent, bipartisan panel modeled after the "Truman Committee," which attacked government waste in the years after World War II, saving the federal government some $178 billion. Given that we've sunk more than $830 billion in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, much of it now in the pockets of private contractors, the very fact that the Commission exists is a step in the right direction.

Not surprisingly, co-chairs Michael Thibault and Christopher Shays report serious breaches in contract management and oversight. Such problems, they say, "directly involve our nation's ability to achieve policy objectives and provide proper support and protection for our warfighters and civilian employees engaged in contingency operations." The fact is that contractors now outnumber US troops in both theaters of operation. Combined there are about 240,000 Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan; Agencies like State and USAID have their own. Eighty percent of these are foreign nationals working for bewildering chains of subcontracts that routinely escape notice by federal contract management officers.

Obama Mum on Closing of Tiller's Clinic

At Wednesday's daily White House briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if President Obama had any response to the closing of the Wichita clinic that Dr. George Tiller ran before he was murdered by an anti-abortion crusader. Gibbs replied, no. Nothing about this being the sad consequence of a tragic event. Nothing about how this means that an anti-terrorist has won. Just nothing. Obama has a strong record of supporting abortion rights, but pro-choicers may be disappointed by this silence.

I also asked Gibbs about Newt Gingrich's recent dig at Vice President Joe Biden, in which the former House speaker said the "elite media" has had to "prop up Joe Biden and pretend he actually knows what he’s doing." Gibbs offered up the routine praise for Biden, noting that the veep is one of Obama's "most trusted" advisers. "We are lucky and grateful to have him," Gibbs said. Gibbs, though, did not take a swipe at Gingrich. What might that mean? That the White House wants to play nice with Gingrich, who a few weeks ago met with Obama (with Al Sharpton present) to discuss education policy. Or that the White House doesn't see Gingrich as a useful political piñata. Maybe both.

 

Domestic Terrorism at the Holocaust Museum

Information is still coming in on James von Brunn, the suspect in Wednesday's shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

James Ridgeway has the latest.

Officials at the Holocaust Museum have confirmed one of the guards involved in the shooting, whom the museum identified as Stephen Tyrone Johns, died at the hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound from the suspect, James von Brunn.

****

Police have now confirmed that James von Brunn is the suspect in today's shooting at the Holocaust Museum. Von Brunn apparently lives in Easton, Maryland, which some years ago boasted a chapter of the Klu Klux Klan, according to Leonard Zeskind, whose book Blood Politics charts the history of the far right.

From his rather prolific writings, von Brunn's thinking seems to be indebted to two prominent white supremacists: Willis Carto of a now-defunct group called Liberty Lobby, and William Pierce, leader of the National Alliance. (Pierce died in 2002.) At least one of Brunn's books, Kill the Best Gentiles, was published by Noontide Press, which was run by Carto in the 1960s. Noontide later folded into the Institute of Historical Review, one of the major groups that denied that the Holocaust ever happened, according to Zeskind. In the acknowledgement to his book, von Brunn also lists Francis Parker Yockey, a longtime anti-Semite who was promoted by Carto, and Revello Oliver, an associate of Pierce's. In the 1960s, both Oliver and Pierce supported the presidential campaign of Alabama governor George Wallace, a staunch segregationist backed by Klu Klux Klan groups. In the 1990s, Pierce set up a National Alliance headquarters in southwestern Virginia.

In brief, the neo-Nazis with whom von Brunn associates himself  in his writings believe the Jews control the "mud people." The "mud people" are all the non-white Aryans who, in the view of the racists, ought to be kicked out of the country. A sample of von Brunn's writing (titled "Hitler's Worst Mistake: He Didn't Gas the Jews") makes some of these connections.

****

Early reports are saying that the man suspected of a shooting at the Holocaust Museum today is James Von Brunn, born in the 1920s. The shooting comes just a week after President Obama delivered a forceful speech in Germany on the Holocaust. A quick scan of what seems to be Von Brunn’s website reveals some anti-Semitic writings.

Whether or not the gunman has ties to white supremacy groups remains murky at this point. The Holocaust Museum is not a traditional target of far-right groups. They detest it, of course, but as far as I know there have only been two actual protests staged against it. Both involved Louis Carto’s Liberty Lobby, the right-wing populist newspaper which is now defunct.

More recently the far right has concentrated its venom on Hispanics, through militia-type organizations like the Minutemen.

From his website and writings, von Brunn sounds very much like a national socialist or neo-Nazi. His basic writings rely on the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book that purports to set forth a secret grand Jewish plot to control the world. This book was hatched by the Czar’s secret police during the early days of the Russian revolution, and was popularized in the US by Henry Ford, founder of the car company: Ford salesmen handed it out to their customers.

The Protocols form the base of much far-right thinking. Books such as the Turner Diaries by William Pierce, which forecast Timothy McVeigh's attack on Oklahoma City, are steeped in the world of the Protocols.

Squeaky Clean

In the Washington Post today, Al Kamen compares Barack Obama's habit of doling out plum ambassadorships to big campaign donors with Bill Clinton's squeaky clean record of ignoring the money and instead choosing people "with experience in public policy."  Bob Somerby is amused by this sudden rejuvenation of Clinton's reputation:

For years, Kamen’s coven kept insisting that Clinton’s fund-raising was corrupt — that virtually everything was up for sale, given the president’s corrupt love of cash. In the case of the Lincoln Bedroom, the coven faked especially hard — and no one embarrassed itself more than Kamen’s own newspaper. In one especially sad example, the Post belatedly added Chelsea’s Clinton’s slumber party guests to the list of Lincoln Bedroom overnight guests, thereby driving up the numbers and heightening the sense that the Clintons had been misbehaving. It’s hard to get much sicker than that, but Kamen’s coven was up to the task. A few years later, Kamen himself reviewed a Christmas card — on Christmas Eve! He thought he saw character problems.

Without going into obsessive detail, more than a decade has passed since we heard — and heard, and heard, then heard some more — about Bill Clinton’s vile corruption when it came to campaign fund-raising. (We also heard the coven’s gong-show tales about that Buddhist temple.) More than a decade has passed—and have you seen anyone do any work on all the corruption this coven alleged? By now, the coven has had plenty of time to detail and document its big loud-mouthed charges. Have you see anyone produce the book — or even the magazine piece — which documents the way Bill Clinton actually sold off the White House?

And what happened to our most recent president emeritus in all this, anyway?  Who did he send to Britain and Japan?  Click the link for the answer.

Jon Voight Calls Obama a "False Prophet"

Jon Voight is a brilliant character actor. More than that, he shares responsiblity for Angelina Jolie, for which we are all eternally grateful. But he's also a committed conservative, a diehard Israel booster, and a guy who's not afraid to let you know it. His most recent role as arch-villian Jonas Hodges (a comically evil version of Erik Prince) on the Fox show 24 is just another acting job, of course, but may not be that far off from reality. The Midnight Cowboy was a featured speaker at Tuesday's Senate House Dinner, a GOP fundraiser, where he held forth before party luminaries like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Needless to say, he's not a fan of our new president.

From the UK's Daily Mail:

He said: 'It was amazing to me how the media and the young generation were taken in by Obama's false haloistic presence... Obama as a candidate portrayed himself as a moderate, but turned out to be wildly radical."

... With an audience that included Vice President candidate Sarah Palin and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Voight said: 'We were the great power of good for the world and we were the liberators of the entire world. We are becoming a weak nation.

'Obama really thinks he is the soft-spoken Julius Caesar. Republicans need to find their way back to power to free the nation from "this Obama oppression".'

Naming various Democrats, he said they can be blamed for the 'downfall of this country'.

 

Hypocrisy Watch

From USA Today:

Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett voted against the $787 billion economic stimulus package in February, declaring the day it passed that "the only thing this bill will stimulate is the national debt."

Two days earlier, however, Bennett had written to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department seeking stimulus money for Utah, according to copies of the letters released under the Freedom of Information Act. Using 16 identical cover letters, Bennett passed along stimulus funding requests from 14 Utah cities and counties totaling $182.5 million.

....USA Today's review of congressional correspondence with 10 federal departments or agencies found 13 Republicans who voted against the bill and sought funding for their states or districts.

This is presented as sort of a vague act of hypocrisy, but that's unfair.  If money is being doled out (or about to be doled out) despite your opposition, that doesn't mean your state shouldn't get its share.  Likewise, even if I oppose, say, the mortgage interest deduction, there's nothing wrong with me continuing to take advantage of it as long as it's still around.  There are ways in which stuff like this might rise to the level of mockable hypocrisy, but this really isn't one of them.