Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Eve of Destruction



We stand on the Eve of Destruction -- inauguration day 

The roads in Washington, D.C. are starting to close this morning, but not one knows why as it appears very few people are coming for the inauguration. The Saturday protest against Trump is expected to be four or five times larger than the inauguration crowd, and no one can recall an Inauguration Day protest ever being held before. I think this is a first.

In fact, the Trump folks have screwed this up so badly, that they can't even book a Bruce Springsteen cover band and they are, literally, giving away ball tickets in the hope that somebody will  show up.

Jennifer Holiday was booked, but cancelled after she found out who Trump actually is, and so the three "big" acts left are Three Doors Down (America's version of Nickelback), Lee Greenwood (whose last hit was 25 years ago), and the faded country loudmouth Toby Keith. In addition, we have Youtube "star" Jackie Evancho, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and at least some of the Rockettes. If you think "Branson, Missouri matinee on the Potomac," you  have it about right. The best acts are likely to be the D.C. Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, the Republican Hindu Coalition, and the Montgomery Area High School Marching Band.  Not making that up.  Those are headliners.

Pretty much everyone said no to Trump, including Céline Dion, Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, Garth Brooks, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Moby, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Mary J. Blige, and Charlotte Church.  It seems standing next to the political and human equivalent of a garbage dump fire was not seen as either a fun time or a career-maker. Who knew?

As of 5 days ago, only 393 charter bus permits had been requested for the inauguration on the 20th, while all of the city's 1,200 available charter bus parking spaces at RFK Stadium have been booked and filled for the Women's March to be held Jan. 21, and even more buses are being parked across the river in Maryland and Virginia.

A normal Presidential inaugaration parade lasts for 4 hours, but this one is scheduled for 90 minutes, which may be an hour too long.

The Shit Show is about to start. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two Weird Foxes



The Corsac Fox -- Vulpes corsac -- above.

The Tibertan Sand Fox -- Vulpes ferrilata -- below.



The Corsac Fox, or Corsac, is a common medium-sized fox found in the steppes, semi-deserts, and deserts of Mongolia and northeastern China.

The Tibetan Sand Fox is endemic to the high Tibetan Plateau and Ladakh plateau in Nepal, China, Sikkim, and Bhutan.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Useful Dog



This is the legendary Chi-Nese.  It's a cross between a Chihuahua and a Bernese Mountain Dog. If you get lost in the mountains, it brings you a shot of tequila.

Queen Victorian and Friends



Queen Victoria is seen here writing Urdu, with her much-admired and respected teacher, friend, clerk, and travel companion Mohammed Abdul Karim. They were close confidants for 15 years, and she gave him a landed estate in India. The relationship was maternal, with Queen Victoria signing her letters "mother".

The AKC Cannot Face the Obvious


Ron Menaker, Chairman of the American Kennel Club, writes in the September 2016 AKC Gazette that dog shows are in decline.

[T]he trends over the past ten years show us that Conformation is in a tenuous position. “The graying of the Sport” has become something of a buzzword in recent years, but we know that the issue is far more complex than the simple fact of an aging population. As a community, we need to take a close look at what is happening within Conformation, and work together to find solutions. I would like to take this opportunity to show you where things stand today and describe the work that is being done to address the matter head on. And, just as importantly, I would like to ask you to think about how you can help as well.

The numbers show a pretty clear picture.

All-breed and conformation entries have been falling over the past ten years.

Fewer conformation championships have been earned.

Every year, fewer dogs are exhibited in conformation.

Why is this happening?

Yes, we’re getting older. At least some of us are! Our constituents have told us about other reasons too. Concerns about judging, perceptions of professionalization of the sport and busier lives with more choices are some of the challenges we face.

Other factors certainly include cultural pressures and their resulting canine legislation. We all know that the animal rights movement has waged a war against breeding and purebred dogs for decades now. Zoning laws keep some of us from owning as many dogs as we would like to maintain our breeding programs. The Internet age has created a proliferation of platforms that play host to “keyboard warriors” engaged in all manner of debate, often anonymous and not constructive.

Fundamentally, the American public’s understanding of conformation is limited to what they see on television two or three times a year. Recent focus groups revealed that we have a long way to go when it comes to educating the average dog owner.

AKC registrations have been in free-fall for 30 years, and dog shows have been in decline for nearly two decades despite the AKC adding new events and new breeds with the fever of the damned.

The AKC has tried to "partner" with price-gouging veterinarians and dubious pet insurance companies, and they have tried to market everything from "activity trackers" to plush toys and random boxes of useless pet store crap sold on a monthly subscription basis.

What they have NOT tried is producing better dogs by opening up the registries, jettisoning breeds centered on defect and deformity, requiring health tests and certifications, and requiring field performance test for working dogs.

What they have not tried is banning professional handlers who use their personal friendships (and more) to get judges to place their dogs in front of those with less cash to throw at the problems.

The AKC still believes it can build its business on selling defective products to ribbon-chasers and pretenders.

And, of course, their choices are not to blame.  Instead, it's the mysterious "animal rights movement," of which I have never met a single member while in the field hunting, or at a restaurant eating a steak, or at a grocery store buying chicken.

Never mind that we have hunting magazines on every news rack, and five or six hunting shows on cable television, and fast food meat palaces on every corner, somehow the "animal rights" folks are to blame for the  AKC's decline.

Right.  And the band played Waltzing Matilda as the Titanic sank beneath the waves.

Never mind that there are more dogs in America today than any any time in U.S. history.

Never mind that Americans are spending more money on dogs than ever before

The AKC is pretty sure it's not them in bad odor,.  I mean, how could it be?

Does anyone in American know more about dogs than the AKC?

Not if you ask them!   And the band played Waltzing Matilda as the Titanic sank beneath the waves.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog

Coffee and Provocation



Conservationists Need to Appreciate Gamekeepers
When bird populations are trying to recover, it's often necessary to control predator populations, and no one knows how to do that better than gamekeepers.

Why Are European Dogs So Well-Behaved?
Because the folks in Europe do not look, do not touch, and do not fawn over them.

Wiping Out Lyme Disease?
CRISPR gene editing technology is a powerful new tool that could be used to make white-footed deer mice immune to the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Millions of American Eggs Are Headed To South Korea
In December, South Korea was forced to slaughter 15 percent of its entire poultry stock due to avian flu. The result? A shortage of eggs, and now imports from America. The good news is that we have an egg surplus!

Attack of the Killer Mice
Scientists have found the "kill switch" in a mice's brain that, when turned on, turns them into zombie-like predators.  The switch can be turned on with laser light, which means we can now create remote controlled killers out of passive wildlife and pets.

That's a Flock of Fuel
By mathematically modeling the energy saving process that occurs in flocks of birds, scientists have created algorithms that can be used to achieve energy savings of more than 30 percent in hybrid cars.

New Zealand Is Preparing to Take Back the Island
The Big Plan involves killing millions of foreigners.

Your Next Christmas Gift
Here's a book you can give to anyone, no matter what the occassion!

The Solar Mayflower
An autonomous solar boat is scheduled to recreate the Mayflower's historic voyage on its 400th anniversary. The ship will be over 32-meters long and is a joint project between Plymouth University, autonomous marine vessel company MSubs, and Shuttleworth Design, an award-winning yacht design firm. After the Atlantic crossing, the plan is for the ship to circumnavigate the globe.

Life on a Plate
We don't think of plate tectonics as being a major contributor to life on earth, but they are a massive driving force.

Birth Control Spike
IUD demand has risen 900 percent since the election of Donald Trump, as women, fearing that basic contraceptive options are going to be taken away, opt for contraception that will last longer than the president-elect.

___________________________

Grab Them by the Pussy?


“No, we’re good. This gentleman accidentally touched my breast and I accidentally broke his nose.”

You teach people how to treat you.

This is basic. And guess what? The rules here are ancient and pretty well known.

In fact, they are so well known that a million visitors have come and gone from the White House without incident from the Obama's two Portuguese Waterdogs.

The press corps and staff report that Sunny and Bo are models of decorum and, of course, they have been pawed at and fondled by thousands and thousands of people. These are very tolerant dogs, well-socialized and well-trained.

But every dog has its limits.  When an unnamed 18-year-old decided she would swoop in an "kiss" Sunny, without so much as an introduction, she got a small bite on the cheek for her rudeness and stupidity.

Good on Sunny.

Let me say this simply and clearly: If someone you do not know goes in to kiss you on the face without so much as an introduction, feel free to slap the teeth out of their head.

If they try to "grab you by the pussy," hit them so hard they will need a mortician and an anatomy professor to reassemble the body.

The notion that you can go up and just "grab the pussy" of anything and everything, known and unknown, is ridiculous.

And no, the world is not all click and treat as The New Yorker cartoon, at top, makes clear.  Humans are not always innocent, and dogs are not always guilty.

The Titanic, 1912

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nothing Right in the PetSmart Doy Chew Aisle


This is part of the the dog chew and dog toy aisle at Pet Smart. A lot of dogs are killed in this aisle, and veterinary bills of thousands of dollars are racked up as balls, squeek toys, and rawhide chews get consumed and lodged in canine stomachs, and teeth are shattered on splintering deer antlers.

And the prices!

I ordered a Nylabone that was for sale in this aisle at $13, straight from Amazon for less than $6, including shipping.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When One Prick Loves Another Very Much


Porcupines and their golden shower
of love:

Porcupines undergo several stages of courting process before they engage in copulation. Shadle, Smelzer and Metz reported one peculiar mating ritual in their 1946 study on the North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum). They observed that the male porcupine would approach the female with his penis fully erected and spray her with high-pressure jets of urine. In one encounter, the forceful stream of urine was noted to have shot as far as 6 feet and 7 inches from the spot where the male porcupine stood. In less than a minute, the female may be thoroughly drenched from nose to tail.

Coffee and Provocation


Killing for Admissions at the Zoo
Zoos cull everything from wallabies to tigers. Why? because zoos know that baby animal draw admissions, but adults don't. So, it's a birth and kill cycle in zoos around the world.

Bald Is Better than Beautiful
Men with less hair appear more intelligent, educated, and honest.

Geppetto Never Moved His Lips When Pinocchio Spoke
Donald Trump has criticized Republicans, Democrats, the Pope, U.S. elections, the CIA, the FBI, NATO, and Meryl Streep. Who hasn't he criticized? Vladimir Putin.  Here's why.

The Disabled Reporter Has a Name
The "disabled reporter" is Serge Kovaleski, and he's a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Use his name. Read his work. Celebrate a hard-working, self-effacing truth teller. Start with his wiki bio.

Do It Yourself HIV Prevention
It should start with testing and fidelity (powerful tools too rarely mentioned), and condoms too, of course. But word out of London is that they have seen a massive drop in HIV rates due to internet drugs.

"Normal America" Is Not What?
‘Normal America’ is not a small economically-dying town full of white people.
___________________________

Her First Dance


The painting is entitled "My First Partner," and was painted by Charles Burton Barber (British, 1845–1894) whose stock in trade was painting children and their pets.

We Could Use This Sign in the Kitchen



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Candy Co. Invests $9 Billion in Veterinary Business



A few days ago, I posted about how the Mars candy and food company was now the largest owner of veterinary services in the U.S. (Is Your Vet Owned by a Candy Company?).

Today comes word that Mars (headquartered just two miles from my house) has expanded its entry into the veterinary care world, with the purchase of the second largest veterinary health service provider in the U.S. -- VCA -- for $9.1 billion. From the press release:

Mars, Incorporated and VCA Inc. (NASDAQ: WOOF) today announced that they have entered an agreement under which Mars will acquire all of the outstanding shares of VCA for $93 per share, or a total value of approximately $9.1 billion including $1.4 billion in outstanding debt. The transaction price represents a premium of approximately 41 percent over VCA's 30-day volume weighted average price on January 6, 2017, and a premium of approximately 31 percent over VCA's closing price on January 6, 2017. The agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

VCA joins Mars Petcare, one of the world's leading pet care providers. Pet care has been an important part of Mars for over 80 years. The transaction reaffirms Mars' commitment to the pet care industry and the veterinary profession, and once completed will help drive Mars Petcare's purpose to create A Better World for Pets. Mars Petcare's portfolio of Veterinary Services businesses includes BANFIELD® Pet Hospital, BLUEPEARL® and PET PARTNERS™. Together with VCA, these businesses will provide an unprecedented level of access to high quality veterinary care for pets, from wellness and prevention to primary, emergency and specialty care. Mars Petcare is already an industry leader in pet nutrition with global brands that include ROYAL CANIN®, PEDIGREE® and WHISKAS®. Mars has a growing business in pet DNA testing through the WISDOM PANEL®, and in 2015 also acquired pet technology provider WHISTLE.

What's this mean for pet care? Consolidation in the health care arena always means more pressure to engage in fraud through upcoding, price-gouging, bill-padding, and medically unnecessary goods and services. The patient (human, canine, or feline), takes a back seat to the bottom line, and procedure manuals are written to maximize revenue by cutting actual services while increasing the costs and number of billed activities.

The pressure of Wall Street (NASDAQ: WOOF) will drive up prices across the veterinary sphere, while also lowering the confidence people will have about the quality of care and information they are getting from their own veterinarians.

The parallel here is with human health care, where the rise of industrialized medicine driven by doctor kickbacks, off-label marketing, bill-padding, upcoding, and price-gouging is king.  The difference; unlike in human health care, there are no federal rules prohibiting such activity for dogs and cats, and because the damages are small (because dogs and cats are simple property), there will be almost no legal representation for consumers given the hind leg.

The Hyena Men of Nigeria

Camo Dog


The Closest Living Relation to the Dodo









The Nicobar Pigeon is the closest living relative of the Dodo, and is found on small islands and in coastal regions from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, east through the Malay Archipelago, to the Solomons and Palau.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Will the AVMA Stand Against Deformity?


Will the American Veterinary Medical Association issue a statement in mid-January saying that dogs selected for defect should not be bred?

If they do, will that have any impact in the real world, where breed after breed is positively selected for deformity and dysfunction, and where veterinarians make big bank while treating deformed dogs with expensive surgery and drugs?

The proposed AVMA statement, written by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee, reads:

The AVMA supports the responsible breeding of companion animals such that only animals without deleterious inherited disorders are selected for breeding. Companion animals exhibiting inherited characteristics that negatively affect the animal’s health and welfare should not be bred, as those characteristics and related problems are likely to be passed on to their progeny. This would include inherited conditions such as brachycephalic syndrome, some joint diseases, bone deformation (e.g., radial hypoplasia “twisty cats”, munchkin), heart and eye conditions, or poor temperament (e.g., Springer rage syndrome). The AVMA encourages veterinarians to educate breeders, pet owners and the public on the responsibilities involved with breeding and selecting pets to ensure that they are not contributing to poor welfare issues.

To be clear, issuing a statement is pretty weak game; it simply says intentionally breeding animals for a lifetime of distress, pain, and discomfort is a very bad idea.

Pretty bold stuff, eh?! 

And what will the American Kennel Club say to this bold notion?

And will the AVMA care
about what the the AKC has to say?

If so, why??

Stay tuned!

The Seeds of Adventure


Over at The Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor notes that today is the birthday of Richard Halliburton, a  favorite author of my mother's when she was a young girl.

My mom was born in Augusta, Kansas, pretty far from mountain or ocean, great adventure or romance, and only six blocks from Barack Obama's mother. There must have been something in the water in the little town of Augusta, Kansas, however, because both our mothers saw the world in every shade of vibrant color. The very day that she got married, my mother and father got on an airplane for Syria, and later they lived in Iran, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Mali, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and in between they visited at least a hundred countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Garrison Keillor gives us a bit about Halliburton, below, and reading this, I think he would very much have liked to have met my mother!

It's the birthday of adventurer and author Richard Halliburton, born in Brownsville, Tennessee (1900), the son of a civil engineer. He went to a prestigious New Jersey prep school, edited the student newspaper at Princeton, and then set off on the dizzying array of adventures around the world that would make him famous. To fundraise for these adventures, he wrote books about them. Many of his books became best-sellers.

On one of his first major trips, he traveled down the Nile River, headed over to India and Thailand, and climbed Mount Fiji; he wrote about these escapades in The Royal Road to Romance (1925). On one trip he borrowed an elephant from the Paris zoo and rode it across the Alps. On another trip he decided to follow the ancient path of Ulysses around the Mediterranean Sea; he wrote about these wanderings in The Glorious Adventure (1927). His next big adventure was around Central and South America, where he swam across the Panama Canal. Tolls for crossing the Panama Canal are assessed based on weight, and ships routinely pay over a hundred thousand dollars for a single crossing. But since Halliburton swam across, his toll was just 37 cents — a record for the lowest toll ever. He wrote about his Latin American adventures in New Worlds to Conquer (1929).

On Christmas Day 1930, he set out on another one of his epic adventures. It was a trip around the world in an open-cockpit biplane. It would last 18 months and include stops in 34 countries, and it began in Los Angeles. There was a stop in New York, and then the British Isles, France, Gibraltar, Morocco. He and his co-pilot flew across the Sahara, made a stop in Timbuktu, spent time in Algeria, and landed in Persia (now Iran). They made a stop in Iraq, where they gave a joyride to the school-aged Iraqi prince, flying him up over his school's playground.

They headed over to India, where their crimson red plane did aerial stunts over the Taj Mahal. Then they flew to Mount Everest, taking the first aerial photographs of the summit. They flew to the Philippines. Once there, they crated the plane, and rode a ship with it back across the Pacific, landing in San Francisco. From there they flew back to L.A. so that they could complete their journey at its starting place.

Halliburton wrote a book about the aerial expedition called The Flying Carpet (1932), which was also the name of the plane. The book sold phenomenally well even though it was published in the midst of the Great Depression.

Once, when he was young, he had announced to his father — an engineer — that he himself planned at all costs to avoid living an "even-tenored" life. He said: "When impulse and spontaneity fail to make my way uneven then I shall sit up nights inventing means of making my life as conglomerate and vivid as possible. ... And when my time comes to die, I'll be able to die happy, for I will have done and seen and heard and experienced all the joy, pain and thrills — any emotion that any human ever had — and I'll be especially happy if I am spared a stupid, common death in bed."

He was spared a common death in bed. In 1939, he attempted to sail a Chinese junk from Hong Kong to San Francisco. It was 75 feet long, had a dragon painted on it, and was run by a diesel engine. The idea was to land at Treasure Island, in the Bay between San Francisco and Oakland. It was bad from the beginning. He was caught in a typhoon near Midway Island a few weeks after setting out. He sent out a couple messages: "Wish you were here instead of me" and "Southerly gale. Heavy Rain Squalls. High sea ... lee rail under water." He was never heard from again and was presumed dead shortly later, age 39.

While he was gallivanting about, he wrote a lot of letters home to his parents. Afterward, his dad collected and published them as Richard Halliburton: His Story of His Life's Adventure, as Told in Letters to His Mother and Father (1940). His travel writings are also collected in Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels (1941).

No Action Here

Apocalypse Dog


This gas mask was made for a World War I messenger dog out of some sort of synthetic fabric, textile, and coarsely woven paper.


Sunday, January 08, 2017

Stay Warm!



It's cold out there this morning!

This picture is entitled "Warming by the Hearth," and was painted by Philip Eustace Stretton who was a British animal and sporting painter (1865–1919).

Coffee and Provocation


Most Inbred Dogs?
The three most inbred pure breeds are the Lundehund, Bull Terrier, Baseni, and Minature Bull Terrier. I have written about these breeds here, here, here. and here.

Least Inbred Dogs?
The three least inbred pure breeds are the Sloughi, the Chihuahua, Spanish Water Dog, and Jack Russell Terrier. Only the Sloughi is less than 6%, and the Chihuahua, Jack Russell Terrier, Tibetan Mastiff, and Spanish Water Dog are less than 12%. There are perhaps 20 breeds with inbreeding of less than 25%, and the rest are 25% or more.

Bad Breeding Meets Bad Training on the Set of Sherlock
The bloodhound didn't like pavements or concrete or people or busy streets or open spaces. It would not move, and had to be dragged down the street.

Search and Rescue Wolverines?
An unlikely, and quite frankly insane solution to the rare problem of locating avalanche victims.

Death at the Beach
Shorebird populations have shrunk by 70% across North America since 1973.

The Beginning of the End of Rampant Slaughter?
China is going to ban domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. The African elephant population fell from over 4.5 million in 1900, to less than 450,000 today.

The Big Money in Boxing?
Michael Buffer, the boxing announcer who came up with thecatchphrase “let’s get ready to rumble,” trademarked the phrase, and has made more than $400 million by licensing it.

Building Self-Esteem in Children
Stalin’s first son shot himself because of Stalin’s harshness toward him, but survived. After this, Stalin told folks:  “He can’t even shoot straight.”

Word Origin
The term “nerd” originated from Dr. Seuss’ 1950s book, “If I Ran a Zoo.”
 ___________________________

So Much Win



Astronaut Leland Melvin included his rescue dogs, Jake and Scout, in his official NASA portrait. Love that!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Why Does Skunk Stink Last and Last?


The stuff in skunk spray that stinks is a series of odorous compounds called thiols. Bonded sulfur and hydrogen atoms in thiols attach to the same nose receptors that sniff out hydrogen sulfide ("swamp gas"). Human noses are highly sensitive to thiols and can detect the smell at just 10 parts per billion.

Skunk spray also contains compounds called thioacetates, which slowly break down into thiols. When a skunk sprays a terrier, thioacetates in the spray (and absorbed into the skin of the terrier) break down and replace the old thiols, resulting in the skunk odor reappearing on the dog.

Water seems to rapidly speed the process of thioacetates breaking down into thiols, but part of the release seems to be time-sensitive. Getting a dog wet repeatedly over several days will not "drain off" all the thioacetates.

No matter what you do, it will take about a month or even 6 weeks before skunk odor disappears off a well-dosed dog.

For more information on skunk spray odor remedies and toxic-shock syndrome in terriers sprayed by skunks underground, see >> http://www.terrierman.com/skunk.htm

Forever Going to Ground



Mountain Girl is gone, but there is a permanent cast iron monument to her in this house.  She will forever be going to ground. ❤️️


How to Devastate American Hunting and Fishing


From Field & Stream magazine comes this instruction sheet on how to devastate American hunting and fishing for all time :

Transferring control of Federal lands would devastate hunting and fishing. The recent movement to do away with the concept of federal lands has nothing to do with freedom. It’s just the opposite — and would change hunting and fishing as we know it...

There is... a carefully crafted movement under way to rob Americans of their public lands. It’s a movement led not by armed and ranting men decked out in militia getups, nor the Ammon Bundy types in their cowboy hats, but by soft-handed politicians in business attire, dreaming of riches and a transformation of our country that will bring us into line with the rest of a crowded world where only the elite and the very lucky have access to wildlife, open spaces, rivers and lakes, and the kind of freedom that we have for so long taken for granted.

Randy Newberg, one of America’s most outspoken public-land ­hunter-­conservationists, points out that transferring control of public lands to the states, or to private hands, is not a political issue—it’s an American issue. “So many people I talk with just don’t seem to know what is at stake,” says Newberg. “The idea of our public lands, in public hands, is one of the greatest contributions that America ever gave to the world—that we the people are invested in our own lands. It’s part of our democracy, and it is exactly what gave birth to the American conservation movement that made us the envy of the world.”

... The repercussions [of states being given federal land] would have included the most radical expansion of state government in history to deal with the administration of such marginally productive lands, as well as increased taxes to support it, grazing fees that would rise as much as tenfold, and finally, the inevitable sell-off of most of the lands to private interests that would almost certainly not include the Sagebrush Rebels. It would actually mean the end of small-scale ranching in the arid West.

The precedents then were as clear as spring water—and they are just as clear today:

  • Nevada was given 2.7 million acres of federal land when it became a state in 1864. All but 3,000 acres of that has been sold off.
  • Utah has already sold more than 50 percent of the lands granted to it at statehood.
  • Idaho has sold off 41 percent of its state lands since gaining statehood in 1890, which equates to 13,500 acres per year going into private hands.
  • And the history of land under state ownership is not good. A report by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, a national sportsmen’s conservation group, cites these figures:
  • In Colorado, only 20 percent of state trust lands are open to the public for hunting and fishing.
  • To help ease budget woes in Wisconsin, the state is currently in the process of selling off 10,000 acres of state-owned land.
  • In Oregon, as timber revenue from it has declined, the state has been forced to auction off the 92,000-acre Elliot State Forest. Oregon was originally granted 3.4 million acres and has only 776,000 acres left.
  • In Idaho, a European-esque hunt club has leased state land for exclusive hunting rights.

... The new leaders of the so-called “divestiture movement” are not ranchers, at least not in the conventional sense. They are inspired by the work of theorists and political appointees...

“The difference between the land grabbers today and in past years is that they are much more organized than ever before. There is a lot more money behind them than there ever has been,” says Land Tawney, the executive director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

The public lands that were once viewed as useless have now attained fantastic value, on a planet of 7.3 billion people, in the ­fastest- growing developed nation on earth. Dramatic, huge-scale private land holdings across the nation have become the norm, from the recent purchase of 330,000 acres of ranchland in the Missouri Breaks of Montana by the Texas-based Wilks brothers, to Ted Turner’s 2 million acres, the Koch brothers’ 200,000- acre Montana ranch, or the Mormon Church’s ownership of 650,000 acres in Florida and a 201,000-acre ranch along the Wyoming-Utah border. There is little doubt that there would be a huge demand for U.S. public lands, both from our own wealthy residents, from investors, and from ­resource- ­stressed nations like Saudi Arabia and China.

Basic natural resources are most at risk. “Think about the water we’d lose access to if these lands were privatized—70 percent of the headwaters of our streams and rivers in the West are on public lands,” Tawney says. “That is why the lands were set aside in the first place. We knew that under federal management we’d be able to harvest timber and still protect the water resources. With private ownership, there was no guarantee.”

And “no guarantee” applies to hunting and fishing, too, Tawney says. “The transfer of these lands to state control would change American hunting forever. State lands have an entirely different set of rules for management. And private lands are mostly not accessible for the average hunter. The experiment, unique to our country, where the fish and wildlife and the public lands belong to the people, well, that would be the end of that.”

Old Question; Good Answer

The Queen's Dog Won, So It MUST Be a Mutt!


The Queen of Englands's champion gundog is being accused of being a "cross-breed" by rivals who claim she should be banned from competing because cross breeding gives the dog an unfair advantage.

Read that sentence again.

Mallowdale Diamond, who was given to the Queen as a present in January 2013, is one of a number of dogs facing claims they have an unfair advantage because they are Sprockers, a cross between a Springer spaniel and a Cocker spaniel, The Sun claimed.

The four-year-old has competed in a number of competitions, winning the Yorkshire Gun Dog Open Qualifiers in 2015 and the Kennel Club Open Qualifiers last year.

Rivals claim that Sprockers are bigger and faster than pure breeds. A group of 20 judges are alleged to have written to the Kennel Club to voice their concerns.

Andy Platt, a former judge, told The Sun there was “a lot of suspicion” that the four-year-old is a Sprocker.

“The Kennel Club is an association for pedigree dogs and they have got their rules that no unauthorised cross-breeding can occur without their permission,” he added.

In short, in a competition about FIELD WORK, Kennel Club paper-hangers are complaining because their (allegedly) working dogs are not as good at their job as the (alleged) cross-breed.

Right.

In the U.S., we have a saying:
"the bullshit stops when the the tailgate drops."

The sore losers are flying a very clear and amusing flag: their dogs are not as good as cross breeds, real or alleged. They demand to be judged on a curve where papers trump actual objective field performance.

They are saying, rather loudly, that the Kennel Club has failed to produce the best working dog, and the evidence is that any dog that wins a Cocker Spaniel field trial ahead of their own dogs must be a cross breed because it clearly has super-powers that the less functional Kennel Club dogs do not.

As I noted back in 2011:

As always, the threat to working dogs is the tar pit of the Kennel Club from which no breed has ever emerged intact and still working.

Tar pits look benign -- cool water tends to pool on top -- but nothing has ever come out of them but bones.

In the case of the Kennel Club, what has emerged, time and time again, are exaggerated dogs devoid of working instinct, nose, and common sense, with coats inappropriate for the job, and skeletal structures that are often inadequate for a day in the field.

No one who courses dogs looks to a Kennel Club dog to do the job, and the same is true for working sled dogs, herding dogs, cart dogs, pointers, setters, or retrievers.

And now we can add field Cocker Spaniels to the list of dogs that Kennel Club theorists have (apparently) ruined by selecting for looks rather than real-world performance.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Is Your Vet Owned By a Candy Company?


The good folks at Bloomberg have discovered what I reported on 9 years ago, which is that the once-independent veterinary trade is rapidly consolidating into a small number of for-profit chain-store businesses, owned by holding companies, and with consultants driving a pure-profit business model based on upcoding, medically unnecessary testing, and price-gouging.

In a post entitled Veterinary Trades Say It's Time to Rip-off the Rubes, I noted:

"As time goes on, more and more veterinarians are slipping to 'the dark side.' Corrupt practices such as bill padding, kickbacks, price-gouging, and prescribing medically unnecessary procedures are becoming normalized. Young veterinarians are being told, 'this is the way you do it.'"

So what did Bloomberg discover on their deep dive into corporate veterinary care? A few bullets:

  • Corporations now own 15 percent to 20 percent of America’s 26,000 pet hospitals despite laws in most states banning corporations from owning veterinary practice
  • .
  • Banfield Pet Hospital is America’s biggest chain of veterinary clinics. It started out as a franchise, but is now owned by the Mars candy company, and it is reportedly using strong arm tactics to force franchises to sell their operations back to the core company at prices far below true market value.
  • .
  • Banfield puts its hospitals inside big-box retail PetSmart stores, "turning medical care into a product to be purchased along with dog food and chew toys — just another item on a one-stop shopping list."
    • Banfield uses a software-driven scheme called PetWare to both standardize care and maximize billing. Banfield was not willing to share the current PetWare manual with Bloomberg, but the old PetWare manual "makes for interesting reading".  Bloomberg  notes that "In one example, explaining how the software is used to prescribe treatment, the book shows a checklist of therapies for a dog with atopic dermatitis, or itchy skin. Doctors are encouraged to recommend a biopsy, analgesics, topical medications, antibiotics, a therapeutic dietary supplement, an allergy diet, and a flea control package. They’re required to recommend antihistamines, shampoos, serum allergy testing, lab work, a skin diagnostic package, and anti-inflammatories. It’s a treatment course that might run $900 for symptoms that, in a best-case scenario, indicate something as prosaic as fleas. In bold print, the manual reminds doctors: “You cannot change items that were initially marked Required. They must remain required.”
      • Vaccines are at the core of Banfield’s main product which is a selection of preventive-care packages they call "wellness plans". For a monthly fee of $30 to $60, a wellness plan covers exams, office visits, diagnostic tests, and shots for dogs and cats. Call any Banfield hospital, and you’ll be told it’s the vaccines that make the plans such a good value, because à la carte, they are as much as $40 each, along with $50 for each doctor visit. Not said: after the first year of vaccines, and with the exception of an every-three year rabies booster that can be had for $10 at any animal shelter, vaccines are not needed at all. Canine vaccines are good for the life of the pet.
        • Last year more than 2 million pets were covered by a Banfield wellness plan, and every dog gets basically the same treatment, regardless of whether it’s a 10-year-old miniature poodle living in a high rise or a 2-year-old Labrador retriever that runs free on a farm.
          • Bloomberg writes: "If the wellness plans make medicine into a standardized product, Banfield’s pet drop-off policy is what allows a hospital to hum at maximum efficiency. Pet owners are required to leave their dogs and cats all day when taking advantage of the plan’s twice-yearly comprehensive exam. For some people this is exactly why Banfield is so appealing — no more interrupting your work schedule for a vet appointment. For Banfield it’s a way to squeeze exams into the gaps between surgeries, walk-ins, and other appointments."
            • "While pets wait for treatment, they’re warehoused in a wall of kennels at the back of the hospital—sometimes without water, because animals that drink need to urinate. Donna Smith, a licensed technician at a Banfield facility in Waterbury, Conn., who was fired in 2014, says staff at her hospital worked like a 'pit crew,' with all the hurry and commotion that connotes. But instead of changing tires and refilling tanks, they were pulling dogs out of cages, giving vaccines, taking blood and fecal samples, and rushing through physical exams that might take no more than 90 seconds. 'I once saw a doctor vaccinate the wrong dog because we had paperwork everywhere and so many dogs lined up,' Smith says."
            • .
            • In contrast to human medicine, in which everything is mandated and overseen by a web of government agencies, veterinary medicine is largely unregulated.  There are little or no fraud protections.
              .
            • Most pet owners pay cash and vets don’t deal with insurers haggling for better prices or questioning whether that vaccine or ultrasound or blood panel is actually necessary.
            • .
            • "When veterinarians make fatal mistakes, they face no real financial consequences... Damages paid to owners whose pets have been killed or injured are so low that a typical medical malpractice insurance policy for a veterinarian costs less than $20 a month. Damages are so low, in fact, that few pet owners can find a lawyer willing to take even the most egregious case of veterinary malpractice."
            • .
            • The cost of veterinary care in the U.S. has risen even faster than the cost of human health care, more than doubling since 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
            • .
            • In corporate medicine, the bottom line is the bottom line and the core business strategy is to leverage the customer base by increasing the number and intensity of the services received during each visit. Most practices set out treatment, package and procedure goals centered around billing rather than individual canine needs. Wendy Beers, a veterinarian who resigned from VCA Animal Hospitals which operates over 750 facilities nationwide, reports that “Every month they would print out things to say how many packages you sold, how many procedures you did. And if they came out and said, ‘This month we want everyone to do 20 heartworm tests,’ and you only did eight, well, next month you have to do better. I don’t feel when they’re lecturing us that their chief interest is to make sure animals get the best care.”
            • .
            • Annual postcards are a core part of the business plan to sell unneeded vaccines outside of the guidelines established by the American Animal Hospital Association, which itself is on the payola of veterinary vaccines companies, drug makers, and equipment and device companies (this last point is not reported by Bloomberg).

            Read the Whole Thing at this link.

            If you want to know what you can DO to save money, search veterinary care and scams on this blog.  The previously mentioned post from 9 years ago (reposted in 2014) is a good place to start.

            Surprising Changes in U.K. Fox Demographics


            The folks at New Scientist report that "there are five times more urban foxes in England than we thought." At the same time, it appears there has been a tremendous decline in rural fox following the ban on hunting with dogs.

            The number of red foxes in urban areas of England appears to have soared almost fivefold.

            The rise from an estimated 33,000 in the 1990s to 150,000 today seems to have happened largely because foxes have appeared in new areas, or multiplied in low-density towns, particularly in the north of the country. In southern cities, numbers seem to be static.

            Meanwhile, paradoxically, overall sightings in England have plummeted by 43 per cent over the past 20 years.

            Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are flourishing in urban areas across the globe. They were first reported in towns in southern England in the 1930s.

            ... Top of the list is Bournemouth, at 23 foxes per km2. London registered 18 per km2. In Brighton, the population is 16 per km2.

            Further north, Newcastle is now home to about 10 foxes per km2.

            “The densities in the north have actually increased. The densities in the south have not,” Scott told the meeting. “It doesn’t look like London is overrun by foxes.”

            Extrapolating from these figures, the team estimates that there are nearly 150,000 urban foxes in England – about one for every 300 urban residents.

            ... The urban trend contrasts with the British Trust for Ornithology's overall fox figures for England, both urban and rural, which show a 43 per cent decline between 1995 and 2015, including a sharp drop since 2010.

            “I’d say that the most likely causes were declines in prey or increases in shooting pressure,” says Stephens.

            Rabbit numbers have fallen over this period, possibly because of disease, and changing farming practices are also likely to have reduced potential prey in rural areas. "Earthworms make up a large proportion of the fox’s diet, especially for their young, in many areas and are known to be strongly adversely affected by pesticides,” says Stephens.

            There is also anecdotal evidence that “since the hunting with dogs ban came into force, gamekeepers have felt a particular obligation to hammer foxes as hard as they can”, he says.

            Coffee and Provocation



            The Innocence Project for Bears
            National Park Service rangers are turning to modern forensic technology, including DNA evidence, to make sure they don’t kill the wrong bear when a human is attacked in the mountains. Here's a hint NPS: All the bears in the Eastern U.S. are innocent. The 750,000 black bears of North America kill less than one person per year on the average, while 1 out of each 16,000 people commits murder each year across North America. Shoot a ranger or NPS volunteer before you shoot a bear; they're more likely to be dangerous.

            "War Dolphins" to Help Save Endangered Species Dolphins
            Navy-trained war dolphins are going to be used to help search for, and capture, highly endangered Vaquitas dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.

            Rating for Research?
            Scientists sampled 133 rats in New York City and discovered 18 new viruses unknown to science.

            Believe It Or Not
            Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters were all born in the same year.

            You're Fat Because There Are Chickens?
            A virus found in chickens can cause them to gain fat in the abdomen. A related virus may also be implicated in human obesity.

            Sure It's a Very Fat Chicken, But It's Also a Very Smart Bird!
            Chickens are smarter and more self-aware than previously thought.

            Here's a Factoid for You
            Norman Mailer coined the word “factoid” in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe, to describe information invented by the media.

            The End of Ebola?
            It looks like we finally have a successful Ebola vaccine.  Cab we vaccinate the gorillas and chimps too?

            The Continuing Crisis
            Blowfish testicles poison 7 diners in Japan.

            Harvard Values
            Harvard's endowment, which is now over $38 billion, is so large the University could grant free tuition to all and still make a profit. So do they do that?  Of course not.  The greedy bastards still charge students a fortune.
            ___________________________

            Elon Musk Needs to Start an Astrochicken Project


            Back in 1988, the great Freeman Dyson speculated that by 2016 we might have an "Astrochicken" that would go out and seed the universe with life using three technologies: genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, and solar-electric propulsion.

            From Dyson's book, Disturbing the Universe:

            The basic idea of Astrochicken is that the spacecraft will be small and quick. I do not believe that a fruitful future for space science lies along the path we are now following, with space missions growing larger and larger and fewer and fewer and slower and slower as the decades go by. I propose a radical step in the direction of smallness and quickness. Astrochicken will weigh a kilogram instead of Voyager’s ton, and it will travel from Earth into orbit around Uranus in two years instead of Voyager’s nine. The spacecraft must be far more versatile than Voyager. It must land on each of Uranus’ moons, roam around on their surfaces, see where it is going, taste the stuff it is walking on, take off into space again, and navigate around Uranus until it decides to make a landing somewhere else. To do all this with a 1-kilogram spacecraft sounds crazy to people who have to work and plan within the constraints of today’s technology. Perhaps it will still be crazy in 2016. Perhaps not. I am dreaming of the new technologies which might make such a crazy mission possible.

            Three kinds of new technology are needed. All three are likely to become available for use by the year 2016. All three are already here in embryonic form and are advanced far enough to have names. Their names are genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and solar-electric propulsion. Genetic engineering is fundamental. It is the essential tool required in order to design a 1-kilogram spacecraft with the capabilities of Voyager. Astrochicken will not be built, it will be grown. It will be organized biologically and its blueprints will be written in the convenient digital language of DNA. It will be a symbiosis of plant and animal and electronic components. The plant component has to provide a basic life-support system using closed-cycle biochemistry with sunlight as the energy source. The animal component has to provide sensors and nerves and muscles with which it can observe and orient itself and navigate to its destination. The electronic component has to receive instructions from Earth and transmit back the results of its observations. During the next thirty years we will be gaining experience in the art of designing biological systems of this sort. We will be learning how to coordinate the three components so that they work smoothly together.

            Artificial intelligence is the tool required to integrate the animal and electronic components into a working symbiosis. If the integration is successful, Astrochicken could be as agile as a hummingbird with a brain weighing no more than a gram. The information-handling apparatus is partly neural and partly electronic. An artificial intelligence machine is a computer {198} designed to function like a brain. A computer of this sort will be made compatible with a living nervous system, so that information will flow freely in both directions across the interface between neural and electronic circuits.

            The third new technology required for Uranus 2 is solar-electric propulsion. To get from Earth to Uranus in two years requires a speed of 50 kilometers per second, too fast for any reasonable multistage chemical rocket. It is also too fast for solar sails. Nuclear propulsion of any kind is impossible in a 1-kilogram spacecraft. Solar-electric propulsion is the unique system which can economically give a high velocity to a small pay load. In this system, solar energy is collected by a large, thin antenna and converted with modest efficiency into thrust. The spacecraft carries a small ion-jet motor which uses propel-lant sparingly and gives an acceleration of the order of a milligee.

            Nobody has yet done the careful engineering development to demonstrate that the energy of sunlight can be converted into thrust with a power-to-weight ratio of 1 kilowatt per kilogram. That is what Uranus 2 needs. But solar-electric propulsion is probably an easier technology to develop than genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Since I am talking science fiction, I shall assume that all three technologies will be available for our use in 2016. I can then give a rough sketch of the Uranus 2 mission.

            The mission begins with a conventional launch taking the spacecraft from Earth into orbit. Since the spacecraft weighs only 1 kilogram, it can easily ride on any convenient launcher. During the launch, the spacecraft is packaged into a compact shape, and the biological components are busy reorganizing themselves for life in space. During this phase the spacecraft is a fertilized egg, externally inert but internally alive, waiting for the right moment to emerge in the shape of an Astro-chicken. After it is in a low Earth orbit, it will emerge from its package and deploy the life-support apparatus needed for survival in space. It will deploy, or grow, a thin-film solar collector. The collector weighs 100 grams and collects {199} sunlight from an area of 100 square meters. It feeds a kilowatt of power into the little ion-drive engine which sends the spacecraft on its way with a milligee acceleration sustained for several months. This is enough to escape from Earth’s gravity and arrive at Uranus within two years. The same 100-square-meter collector serves as a radio antenna for two-way communication with Earth. This is ten times the area of the Voyager high-gain antenna. For the same rate of information transmitted, the transmitter power of Astrochicken can be ten times smaller than Voyager, 2 watts instead of 20 watts.

            The spacecraft arrives at Uranus at 50 kilometers per second and grazes the outer fringe of the Uranus atmosphere. The 100-square-meter solar collector now acts as an efficient atmospheric brake. Because the collector is so light, it is not heated to extreme temperatures as it decelerates. The peak temperature turns out to be about 800 Celsius or 1500 Fahrenheit. The atmospheric braking lasts for about half a minute and produces a peak deceleration of 100 gees. The spacecraft leaves Uranus with speed reduced to 20 kilometers per second and passes near enough to one of the moons to avoid hitting Uranus again. It is then free to navigate around at leisure among the moons and rings. The solar-electric propulsion system, using the feeble sunlight at Uranus, is still able to give the spacecraft an acceleration of a tenth of a milligee, enough to explore the whole Uranus system over a period of a few years.

            The spacecraft must now make use of its biological functions to refuel itself. First it navigates to one of the rings and browses there, eating ice and hydrocarbons and replenishing its supply of propellant. If one ring tastes bad it can try another, moving around until it finds a supply of nutrients with the right chemistry for its needs. After eating its fill, it will use its internal metabolic processes with the input of energy from sunlight to convert the food into chemical fuels. Chemical fuels are needed for jumping onto moons and off again. Solar-electric propulsion gives too small a thrust for jumping. The spacecraft carries a small auxiliary chemical rocket system for {200} this purpose. We know that a chemical rocket system is biologically possible, because there exists on the Earth a creature called the Bombardier beetle which uses a chemical rocket to bombard its enemies with a scalding jet of hot liquid. It manufactures chemical fuels within its body and combines them in its rocket chamber to produce the scalding jet. Astrochicken will borrow its chemical rocket system from the Bombardier beetle. The Bombardier beetle system will give it the ability to accelerate with short bursts of high thrust to escape from the feeble gravity of the Uranus moons. The spacecraft may also prefer to use the Bombardier beetle system for jumping quickly from one place to another on a moon rather than walking laboriously over the surface. While living on the surface of a moon, the Astrochicken will continue to eat and to keep the Bombardier beetle fuel tanks filled. From time to time it will transmit messages to Earth informing us about its adventures and discoveries.

            That is not the end of my dream, but it is the end of my chapter. I have told enough about the Uranus 2 mission to give the flavor of it. The underlying idea of Uranus 2 is that we should apply to the development of technology the lessons which nature teaches us in the history of the evolution of life. Birds and dinosaurs were cousins, but birds were small and agile while dinosaurs were big and clumsy. Big main-frame computers, nuclear power stations and Space Shuttle are dinosaurs. Microcomputers, STIG gas turbines, Voyager and Astrochicken are birds. The future belongs to the birds. The JPL engineers now have their dreams on board the Voyager speeding on its way to Neptune. I hope the next generation of engineers will have their dreams riding on Uranus 2 in 2016.

            Fish On Friday

            The Piranha -- the terror of the Amazon.

            Thursday, January 05, 2017

            Craig's List and the Devolution of Democracy



            The news media has devolved to reporting on Trump Tweets. It’s pathetic, and it’s exactly why this nation is in the deep end of the cesspool with a 40-pound weight around its neck.

            Who would have imagined that “Craig’s List” would kill newspaper advertising, resulting in a near-collapse of the news industry and an unwinding of democracy and common sense?

            A Lunatic in a Cave With His Demons


            This detail from The Temptation of St Anthony, painted in the 17th Century by David Teniers, the Younger, looks like it could have come out of some part of the Star Wars saga. The full picture is below.

            Apparently St. Anthony is also known as Anthony the Great, and he was a lazy bum and lunatic who squatted in abandoned tombs and buildings (and the occasional cave) and who was so crazy he routinely had hallucinations, aka he "suffered demons."  By wrapping his mental illness in Christian piety, he somehow became semi-famous.

            Back in the old days, a lunatic with visions living in a cave was how you became famous. Now, apparently, you produce a sex tape.

            Save Public Lands!!








            This land is YOUR land.

            Do not let federal land be "given" to the states, and do not let state lands be sold so that rich companies and wealthy individuals can continue to avoid their federal and state tax obligations.

            Public lands are a public good.

            Federal lands were NEVER owned by the states -- they were bought by the federal government or acquired by treaty with the federal government.

            Major federal land acquisitions include the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, and the Oregon Country Treaty of 1846.

            The remaining land was stolen from the remaining indigenous people with help from federal troops, and railroad and road expansion funded by eastern taxpayers.

            State governments before 1900 were weak, and state treasuries generally threadbare without the means to provide basic services, such as road maintenance, fire suppression, police power, or water storage.

            The states have NO right to federal lands and will move to sell them to private developers, including timber and mining interests that will ruin the land and close public access roads, as they already are doing.

            The first step in STEALING YOUR LAND has already happened in the U.S. House of Representatives where they changed the way government calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, a move done in order to make it easier for members of the new Congress to cede federal control of public lands to state officials.

            Donald Trump's new Secretary of Interior voted for this provision, and he now needs to hear from you, the American people