Friday, November 27, 2015

The American Magazine

Year Round Dosing for Big Veterinary Profits

The dog and I should take the poison to cure what we don't have?

Imagine a doctor telling you that "just to be safe," he was going to dose you every month with penicillin because "you never really know."

Also, since you do a lot of gardening and are around dirt and manure a lot, he was going to worm you every month as well.

Would you consider that outrageous health care?

Well, it's not outrageous in the world of dogs, where veterinarians routinely counsel every client that their dog should be on year-round poisons so they can avoid fleas, ticks, heart worms and roundworms, whether they have them or not.

Roundworms are uncommon in an adult dog, and dosing your dog on a monthly basis is not needed unless you are feeding your dog the raw flesh of wild animals.

Dose your dog once a year for worms (no vet visit is needed, no fecal test is needed, and no prescription medication is needed) and be done with it.

As for fleas and ticks, it really depends on how and where you live. If you have several dogs and are in field and forest several times a week, that is one thing. But if you only have one dog which rarely leaves the sidewalk (i.e. most dogs in America), your dog probably does not need to be on year-round flea and tick medication. Get a flea comb, and if you find fleas, bathe your dog in a cheap over-the-counter flea shampoo, and you should be fine.

As for heart worm, it can only be transmitted if the temperature stays above 57 degrees for at least 45 days straight, both day and night. If the temperature drops below 57 degrees even once during that 45-day period, the life cycle of the heart worm is broken. And if your dog is dosed with heart worm medication even once during any part of a heartworm's 90-day life cycle, all of the microfilaria larvae will be killed. In short, year-round monthly dosing for heart worm is never needed.

So why do vets routinely prescribe year-round medications toxins for dogs?

Simple: Money.

As Dr. Tai Federico, a Tennessee veterinarian recently confessed to the Veterinary Information Service: "Merial has paid for my house, basically, (through) the profit I’ve gotten on Frontline.”

Not only are there real profits to be made from the monthly application of flea, tick and heart worm medications, but simply getting clients to keep coming back for regular prescriptions means that more "well dog" visits can be scheduled during which unnecessary vaccine "booster" shots and dental cleanings can be sold. .

Ironically, while many dog owners have a misplaced obsession with the quality of food they are feeding their dog, these same pet owners often think nothing of dosing their canine companions with insecticides on a monthly basis.

I'll Be Outside

Log to Lumber

Drone footage of the sawmilling process
at the Vaagen Brothers mill in Colville, Washington.

He Can Fix Anything

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving with Arlo

This is the best song ever written about someone cleaning out a hoarder and getting arrested for their troubles.

This actually happened in 1965, 50 years ago today, when Arlo Guthrie visited friend Alice Brock and her husband at their home, a church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and did them a favor by taking out their garbage. Somehow that bit of legal trouble was the miracle he needed to not get drafted to Vietnam. True story. The Old Trinity Church in Barrington is now the Guthrie Center, and Arlo is in the middle of an 18-month tour.

And it will be on PBS tonight!

Let Us Give Thanks to Dinosaur Evolution

Badger Boom in the UK

From The Telegraph:
The number of badger setts in England has more than doubled in the last 25 years, a new report has claimed, fuelling concerns over the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

Researchers believe the number of badger groups has risen by about 2.6 per cent each year for a quarter of a century. There are now an estimated 71,600 badger groups in England and Wales, up by 27,000 to 40,000 since the mid 1980s with the biggest change seen in England.

The number of badger setts has increased by 103 per cent in England while in Wales it has remained fairly constant, the team found.

Party Time!

Religion and the Global Fertility Transition

Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others
— and how does this affect global population growth?

Have we reached peak child?  And if so, why does this NOT mean that world population growth will stop?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Coffee and Provocation


Will GMO Mosquitoes Rid the World of Malaria?
The short answer is "maybe."  Malaria kills about 500,000 people a year, but scientists have just figured out how to introduce malaria-blocking genes into the DNA of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. The gene is passed down 99.5 percent of the time.

Water Bears are Genetic Assimilationists
Tardigrades, or water bears, are the only animal that can survive the extreme environment of outer space, and it turns out get a lot of their genome - nearly one-sixth or 17.5 percent - from foreign DNA. In short the Trwdigrade is GMO to the bone (or lack thereof).

The Scottish National Party Are Very Cheap Whores 
They will abandon their fundamemental points and principles for just 10,000 pounds.

Who Are the Crooks Again?
US police seized $4.5 billion through civil asset forfeiture (through which police can take money and valuables away from citizens without charging anyone with any crimes) in 2014; in the same period, the FBI estimates that burglars accounted for $3.9B in property losses.

Robert Mugabe is a Human Rights Icon?
Yes, the government of China is a total joke.

Treat Every Day Like It's April Fools Day
There is an epidemic of bullshit in this world, and skepticism is your intellectual immune system (video).

Snakebite Antivenom Stuck in the 19th Century
A little research money here could save a lot of lives in the developing world.

A Mass Grave of Clowns?
There's a mass grave of clowns and other circus performers in Forest Park, Illinois, the legacy of a 1918 circus train wreck that killed 86.

Have a Pit Bull?
You may need tougher dog toys. This place has them.

The Next Generation Of Robots Will Look Like Animals
tells you what works fast, with the least amount of energy, and with the most adaptability. And no wonder.  God's laboratory has been open for business for well over a billion years.

Lifelong Republicans Who Love Bernie Sanders

Republicans for Sanders defy neat categorization. Some are fed up with the status quo in Washington, and believe that Sanders, with his fiery populist message, is the presidential contender most likely to disrupt it. Others have voted Republican for years, but feel alarmed by what they see as the sharp right turn the party has taken.

“I have been a conservative Republican my entire life. But the Republican party as a whole has gotten so far out of touch with the American people,” says Bryan Brown, a 47-year-old Oregon resident. “I switched my registration so that I could vote for Sanders in the primary, but the day the primary is over I’m going to register as an Independent.”

... In some cases, longtime Republican voters who have decided to support Sanders, like MacMillan, are rethinking their political affiliation entirely. (“I’m inclined to say I might stay with the Democratic Party because the Republican Party has changed and it’s not the way it used to be,” MacMillan says.) Far from claiming to have experienced a political conversion, other Republicans argue that Sanders actually embodies conservative values.

“When I think of true conservative values I think of Teddy Roosevelt who earned a reputation as a trust-buster,” says Jeff DeFelice, a 38-year-old registered Republican voter living in Florida. “Now look at Bernie. He’s the only one willing to stand up to the big banks. The big banks control an obscene amount of wealth in this country and he wants to go after them.” If Sanders looks like “a viable candidate” by the time the primary rolls around, DeFelice says he’ll switch his party affiliation to vote for the senator.

Sanders’s promise to wrest power away from Wall Street and return it to the American middle class taps into the same vein of populist anger that fueled the rise of the Tea Party. It’s also a message that resonates with mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Sixty-two percent of Republicans, for example, believe that large corporations wield too much influence on American politics, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in May.

Hey Robert Redford, the Climate Change Driver is Right Between Your Legs. Talk About That!

I just got an email from Robert Redford about climate change.

Robert Redford is a very good and nice man, but he's part of the problem when it come to global warming. 

He had FOUR kids.

That's an INCREDIBLE number of children and those kids (and 7 grandkids) means that his fecundity is higher than that of most of the developed and developing world.

And guess who else has the same
number of kids?

Al Gore.  Just see what I said about that!  

Talking about global warming and not talking about the need for more support for international family planning, is to miss the plot.  

Mother Nature is not committing suicide; we are killing her.

We are not doing it because we are evil, but because there are too damn many of us.

Let Us Give Thanks for Wild Turkey and Uncle Sam

Wild Turkey Feathers. This is a repost from Nov. 2008

Let us give thanks to the Wild Turkey, America's largest ground-nesting bird.

Back when my grandfather was born, the Wild Turkey was teetering on the edge of extinction. Today we have more Wild Turkeys in America's woods than existed in pre-Columbian times.

How is that possible?

Good question. But before we get there, let's dwell a little bit longer on the miracle.

You see, it generally requires a lot of forest -- 2,000 acres or more -- to maintain the kind of food crop and cover that Wild Turkey need to thrive.

The reason for this is that in the dead of winter, Wild Turkey depend on acorns and other nuts and seed for survival. This food is only produced in abundance by mature hardwood trees -- oak, beech, dogwood, cherry and gum.

So what's the big deal? We have a lot of forest in America.

True enough now, but not as true a century ago in the Eastern U.S. and much of the Midwest. Back around 1900, virtually all the big stands of large trees had been logged out in the Eastern U.S. and across much of the Midwest as well. As the trees vanished, Wild Turkey populations plummeted.

Wild Turkey populations were further pushed to oblivion by rapid improvements in gun accuracy, and weak game laws that had yet to catch up to the changing dynamics of landscape and technology.

By 1910, there were fewer than 30,000 Wild Turkeys left in America.

Then, an amazing turnaround occurred. That turnaround started with passage of the Lacey Act in 1900. The Lacey Act ended commercial hunting of wild animals.

Commercial hunting is not sport or recreational hunting -- it is the opposite of that. In commercial hunting, the goal is not having a fun day in the field to fill your own freezer with wild meat, but a full year in the field to fill the freezers of 10,000 people whose primary concern is the price per pound.

To put it simply, commercial hunting is to sport hunting what gill-netting is to fly fishing. One comes with a factory ship attached; the other a simple wicker creel.

No single action has done more to improve the status of American wildlife than passage of the Lacey Act. Prior to its passage, commercial hunters bled the land white, shooting everything that moved. Wild game merchants sold pigeons for a penny apiece, and ducks for only a little more.

Hunters, using cannons loaded with shrapnel, would shoot 400 ducks in a day in Maryland's Eastern Shore marshes, while market deer hunters would set up bait stations near roads and shoot 20 deer in a night.

The Lacey Act helped put an end to this kind of unrestricted slaughter of American wildlife, but it did nothing to restore badly degraded habitat.

Wildlife without habitat is a zoo.

Habitat without wildlife is scenery.

America -- still a young nation -- remembered when it had both, and it wanted it all back.

The second steps on the road to wildlife recovery occurred between 1905 and 1911. It was during this period that Theodore Roosevelt set aside 42 million acres as National Forest and created an additional 53 National Wildlife Refuges as well.

It was also during this period that Congress passed the Weeks Act authorizing the U.S. government to buy up millions of acres of mountain land in the East that had been chopped clean of its forest in order to obtain wood for railroad ties, paper, firewood and timber.

With the Depression of the 1930s, and rapid migration of millions of people from the rural countryside to the city, more and more marginal farmland began to revert back to woody plots.

Spontaneous forest regeneration in Appalachia, along with tree-planting by the U.S. Government-funded Civilian Conservation Corps, helped restore more than 6 million acres of hardwood forests on denuded land purchased under the Weeks Act.

In 1937, the Wildlife Restoration Act (aka, the Pittman-Robertson Act) initiated a new tax on rifles, shotguns and ammunition, with this dedicated revenue going to help fund wildlife conservation.

Pittman-Robertson Act funds were used to purchase millions of acres of public hunting lands and to fund wildlife reintroduction efforts for Whitetail Deer, Canada Geese, Elk, Beaver, Wood Duck, Black Bear, and Wild Turkey.

In the case of Wild Turkey, initial restocking efforts were not successful. Turkey eggs were collected from wild birds, and the poults that were hatched were released into the wild. Unfortunately, these pen-raised birds were quickly decimated by predation and starvation.

New tactics were tried. A few adult Wild Turkeys were caught in wooden box traps intended for deer (picture of deer trap at right). These Wild Turkey were then moved to suitable habitat, but these adults birds also perished under the onslaught of predation.

The reintroduction of Wild Turkeys was beginning to look hopeless.

After World War II, game managers began to experiment again. This time, cannon nets -- large nets propelled by black powder rocket charges -- were used. These nets enveloped entire turkey flocks at once.

Moving an entire flock of Wild Turkeys seemed to work. The first few flocks that were relocated out of the Ozarks (the last stronghold of the Wild Turkey) began to thrive, in part because regrown forest provided more food stock for the birds to live on. The millions of acres of mountain land purchased in 1911 under the Weeks Act had, by now, become large stands of maturing hardwoods in the National Forest system.

Turkeys caught in a cannon net.

Systematic restocking of Wild Turkey continued through the 1950s and 60s, and by 1973, when the National Wild Turkey Federation was formed, the population of wild birds in the U.S. had climbed to 1.3 million.

With the creation of the National Wild Turkey Federation, more sportsmen and private land owners were recruited for habitat protection and Wild Turkey reintroduction.

Today, the range of the American Wild Turkey is more extensive than ever, and the total Wild Turkey population has climbed to 5.5 million birds.

Wild turkey hunting is now a billion-dollar-a-year industry, with 2.6 million hunters harvesting about 700,000 birds a year.

And so, when we are giving Thanksgiving this Thursday, let us remember not only the Wild Turkey and America's hunting heritage, but also such "big government" programs as the Weeks Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Pittman-Robertson Act, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Clean Water Act.

Without Uncle Sam -- and your tax dollars -- much of America's wildlife would now be gone.

It was Uncle Sam -- and Mother Nature's natural fecundity -- that brought back the Wild Turkey, the Beaver, the Elk, the Whitetail Deer, the Black Bear, and the Bald Eagle. Ted Nugent and the National Rifle Association were nowhere to be seen, and neither were Bass Pro Shops or salesmen pushing Yamaha ATVs.

So next time you are in forest or field, remember Uncle Sam, and thank God for Mother Nature. Whether you know it or not, your hunting and fishing has always depended on both of them.


How Different Animals See the World

Honest Dog Training

When my friend Andy B
. asked me who he should talk to about training his Portuguese Water dog, I suggested Linda Kaim.  Now she's got a new location, and a very nice write up in Carroll County (Maryland) Magazine:

Like a circus master, Linda Kaim fills the training floor with her calm presence and directs the show. She is clearly the boss.

This 9,000 square-foot refurbished warehouse located at 1907 Bethel Road in Finksburg is the new home for Kaim’s business, The Maryland Dog Spot.

Tucked off of Md. 140, the building was once a popular antique business.

While this location may be new, Kaim is no stranger to the dog community.

She has been training dogs almost her whole life, running Lionheart K9 Dog Training in the Mid-Atlantic for about 25 years and in Carroll County since 2006....

Kaim developed her passion and skills in dog training by working under the guidance of top dog trainers in multiple places in the country. She started Lionheart K9 Dog Training more than 30 years ago. In that time, she has helped owners train their dogs in all capacities, including basic puppy obedience, agility, hunting, service, therapy and law enforcement canine training. Her husband, Peter LoCaccio, and teen-aged son, Conor, also work with her in this family business.

Kaim gives dog owners options for group classes, individual lessons, dog daycare and training, and full boarding and training for periods of one to four weeks.

At any one time, there are seven to 15 dogs with Kaim for boarding and training.

She keeps their numbers small so she and Peter can give each dog individual attention throughout the day. In the evenings, the boarding dogs go home with Kaim and LoCaccio to continue their training in a home environment.

“Our success comes not from having a kennel, but from having a dynamic environment where each dog is handled multiple times a day,” Kaim said.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

That's a Real Hunting Dog

Coffee, Birds & the World Bank

American Redstart

It is pathetic, but true, that there are 391 Starbuck's coffee houses within an hour's drive from my house (50 miles). Amazingly, all of them seem to have a line of customers at all hours of the day. Could Americans be any more addicted to $4 coffees?

I told you it was pathetic, and as soon as they serve me my coffee, I promise you I'm going to leave.

As I wait for my coffee, I read the paper. Paul Wolfowitz, the current head of the World Bank and one of the architects of the war in Iraq, looks like he may lose his job for promoting his girlfriend to a World Bank job that pays better than Condoleeza Rice's.

The shocking part is not that there are scoundrels in Washington, or waste and corruption at the World Bank, but that Paul Wolfowitz has a girlfriend. Of course he had to pay her, but it's still amazing. Apparently, the human soul knows no limits to depravity.

Coffee and the World Bank.

There is a connection there, and I recall the linkage as I watch the pigeons rearrange themselves on the telephone wire in front of the Safeway food store across the street.

Legend has it that the coffee plant was first discovered in Ethiopia by a goat herder who found his charges a little too animated after eating beans from a local bush. The coffee plant (and the drink) eventually made its way to Yemen and the Arab world via the Sudanese slaves that were forced to paddle boats across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula.

With alcohol banned, coffee quickly became the "drug of choice" in the Arab world. While an alcohol-besotted Europe struggled in a drunken haze through the Dark Ages, the Arab world became caffeinated and invigorated. Soon after they started the first coffee houses in the world, Arabs began creating grand libraries, universities, new mathematical equations, and amazingly complex architectural designs. Such is the power of coffee.

Coffee houses hit Europe around 1600, and there they had the same effect they had in the Arab world -- a spectacular growth in intellectual clarity and output. From the enlightened coffee houses of London grew the first newspaper divisions (business, style, overseas news, etc.), the first organized scientific associations, and Lloyds of London -- the first international insurance cartel.

Coffee consumption took off like a rocket in Great Britain, and in 1796, when the British took over Sri Lanka (Ceylon) from the Dutch, the new settlers began clearing land for coffee plantations.

By the 1860s, Sri Lanka was the largest coffee producer in the world.

In 1869, however, a lethal fungus known as coffee rust had shown up on the island causing premature defoliation of the coffee plants, and dramatically reducing berry yield.

By 1879, the rust fungus had spread across the island and into Indian plantations as well, with the result being a collapse of coffee production across the region.

Unable to grow coffee in the face of a devastating rust fungus epidemic, Ceylonese and Indian plantation owners began to rip out their coffee plants in order to grow tea.

Within a few decades, tea consumption in the U.K. had surpassed coffee consumption, and it has remained so to this day.

While tea is the national drink of Great Britain, coffee remains the national drink of the United States, where we consume vast quantities of it. In fact, though coffee is the second most internationally traded commodity in the world (after oil), the U.S. consumes one-quarter of the world's coffee beans.

Coffee came to the New World via the French, who introduced it into the Caribbean in the mid 1700s, and the Spanish, who brought coffee plants to Latin America a few decades later.

By the mid 1800s, coffee plantations had been planted in Central and South America, and these coffee plantations were greatly expanded after coffee rust decimated production in Sri Lanka and India.

Coffee plantations in Central and South America were diverse operations that grew, rather naturally, out of the multi-storied small-patch gardening operations that had been successfully employed by the native Indians for several thousand years before Columbus.

These small patch gardens were created by removing large trees with little agricultural value, but leaving those that might yield a nut harvest, good wood, seasonal fruits, or which had the lucky property of fixing nitrogen in the soil.

Under these large forest tree were planted shorter citrus and cacao trees, and between these were planted bananas. Underneath and between the bananas were planted coffee bushes and vegetable crops for local food consumption.

Multi-storied "shade coffee" plantations were miracles of production. When coffee prices fell (as they often did), other crops provided sustenance and cash, ensuring that the locals could always eat and pay for things made elsewhere.

Because multiple types of plants were found on shade-grown coffee plots, multiple types of insects and birds were present. The result was not only less overall insect predation on any one crop, but less erosion and slower evaporation as both rain and sunlight filtered through multiple vegetative layers.

Shade-grown coffee plantations were particularly rich in bird life -- especially neo-tropical migrant song birds such as redstarts, Tenessee warblers, Baltimore Orioles, yellow-throated and solitary vireos, wood thrushes, catbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds, Nashville Warblers, and oven-birds.

All told, more than 150 bird species are known to winter or live year-round in shade coffee plantations, making them the most bird-intensive agricultural areas in the world.

Shade coffee production thrived.  

But something wicked this way drifted. The coffee rust fungus that had been seen in Sri Lanka 100 years earlier, was discovered in Brazil and Nicaragua. This discovery caused a panic, not only in the coffee industry, but also among the economic and political elite that run such major banking and development policy shops as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The fear was that coffee rust would soon sweep through Central and South America. If that happened, not only would the coffee crop be destroyed, but so too would the economic base of entire countries and many millions of people. If that happened, not only would we not have coffee in New York, Paris and Vienna, but billions of dollars of foreign loans would go unpaid.

Something had to be done.

What was done was massive, mechanical, and swift. Under orders from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the large cartels that control much of the world's coffee market, coffee plantations in Central and South America were systematically ripped from the ground and replanted.

The idea here was a simple one: by growing coffee in direct sun, rather than in the shade, coffee plants could be made safe from the coffee rust fungus. The prescription for salvation was destruction, and entire mountain sides were plowed clear of their multistory canopies and the detritus burned. In their place was planted dense hedgerows of a dwarf variety of coffee that could withstand direct tropical sunlight.

With the loss of a diversified shade forest cover, bird populations that had once thrived in the rich overstory of coffee plantations plummeted. At the same time, with the absence of trees to provide vegetative nutrients to the soil and hold back erosion, the fertilizer needs of coffee plantations skyrocketed. Mono-cropped sun coffee plantations proved far more susceptible to insect infestations than shade plantations, so insecticide inputs also increased. The open sunny soil between coffee plants proved susceptible to weed infestations, so herbicide use also increased. Finally, though the new coffee plants produced a great number of beans, the plants themselves were not as hardy as the old shade-grown varieties, and an additional expense had to be factored into the equation -- the cost of periodically replanting large numbers of exhausted plants.

Ironically, all of the devastation and destruction was not needed. It turns out that due to the peculiarities of Latin America's climate and the timing of rain, humidity and mountain temperature, coffee leaf rust has not been able to proliferate in either Central or South America.

Adding insult to injury, it turns out that the new dwarf varieties of sun-grown coffee are not less susceptible to coffee leaf rust than the older varieties. When a fungus outbreak does occur, as it sometimes does, it is generally localized and easily treatable with a copper-based fungicide.

Sadly, however, the damage to the once-vibrant shade coffee plantations cannot be rapidly undone. Forests that took decades to grow were razed to the ground in hours, and will now take decades to grow back.

The good news is that some people are re-thinking coffee production in Central and South America, and in time shade-grown coffee may yet make a partial come back.

If so, the folks spearheading the charge will be the aging hippies and eco-freaks that once wore tie-dyed T-shirts and earthshoes. Now older, these folks frequent businesses like Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, edit newspapers and magazines, start movements, run foundations, and are otherwise a social force to be reckoned with.

For this set, buying coffee has become a political act. From their perspective, if you are not buying shade-grown, organic, free trade coffee, then you are simply giving the "big wink" to American song bird destruction and the poisoning of the soil, people and economies of Latin America.

They have a point, and it's such a good and strong point that companies like Starbucks are working to change their business practices as a consequence.

Working with Conservation International, Starbucks has created a set of Coffee and Farmer Equity practices (CAFE for short ) to guide the growing and purchase of coffee.

This year, Starbucks is supposed to purchase 60 percent of its coffee from suppliers who successfully implement the CAFE guidelines.

The end of this story is not yet written, but it may yet be good news, albeit good news that remains at least 10 or 15 years off due to slow nature of the turn around, and the slow regrowth of shade coffee plantations.

That said, if consumers continue to demand and purchase shade grown coffee grown in Mexico and Central America, we may yet see a turn around in neotropical songbird decline in the United States.

If so, that would certainly make a $4 coffee worth the price.

                                                 This is a repost from 2007. .

The Boston Tea Party in the Hedge

This is John, this Sunday, with a couple of Osage "oranges." If there was any kind of economic value to these things, we could be millionaires. This year generated a particularly rich crop of the fibrous balls which are the legacy of ground sloths and mammoths that used to exist in this part of the world.

Osage Orange, aka Maclura pomifera, is not a very big tree, and comes in male and female forms. The wood is very dense and makes good tool handles and, because it does not rot, very good fence posts. Osage was also used by the native Indians to make pretty good bows.

I pointed out to John the enormous white oaks on this land -- some of the best boat building wood in the world. One of the smaller white oaks on this property can be seen over his right shoulder

Osage Orange has also been used in boat construction. Here in Maryland, where we were digging, the 59-foot, 1768 replica schooner Sultana, was made with Osage Orange frames.  The Sultana, the smallest boat in the British navy at the time, was used to patrol the Chesapeake for Townsend Act violators.

The Townsend Act, or "Tea Act" is the law that "Tea Party" activists routinely screw up the meaning of.

Here's the real story:  the British East India company had warehouses groaning under the weight of tea from India. In order to get rid of the tea, the British LIFTED the tea tax for the British East India Company (and the British East India Company alone) so that British tea could economically compete with tea that was being smuggled into the colonies from the West Indies. The Sultana's job was to catch boats smuggling tea into the Chesapeake Bay -- tea still subject to taxes under the Townsend Act.

The Boston Tea Party, then, was NOT at act of resistance to a tax being imposed by Britain, but an act of protest against a tea tax being lifted.  The colonists, dressed as fake Indians, dumped the untaxed East India Company tea overboard so it could not compete with their smuggled tea from which they made a good business.  Yes, that's right:  the Boston Tea party was an act of vandalism by smugglers who were pissed off at a lowering of taxes which was harming their tea-smuggling business.

Surprise hunts for a mouse inside an old Osage Orange fence post.

Darwin on Britain's Two-Pound Coin

This two-pound coin was issued in 2009, on the anniversary of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, and on the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species (1859).

Monday, November 23, 2015

Love That Has No Name

Thanks Katy P.!

Mighty Fearless :: Mighty Dog

This ad wouldn't work as well with any other breed.

Nice Fox Sette

No one home, but a nice big fox sette.
We'll be back. This is John M's Seniorita (Rita) looking in and coming out. The white dog is Surprise.

Misto went in and stayed a long time checking out this big den, came out, and then checked it all out again to make sure he did not miss anything the first time around. He will let us know when he finds!  Moxie is in heat, so she stayed home.

The First Shovel

The shoulder blades of cows, deer, and horses
were the first prehistoric shovels. This is a deer's shoulder blade.

Mapping Dens

In this seasonal down time, when groundhogs are mostly in hibernation, and fox are mostly above ground, and the leaves are flying off the trees and bushes, I am using iPhone mapping software to pin dens for later visits.  These pins were all from Sunday.

The app is called "Pinbox" and works with Apple maps. Costs $4.00, and worth it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dog and Mushrooms

This is Surprise, John M's dog.  She's not a working dog yet, but give her a few more field runs and it will happen. It's all about giving a dog experience.

Crazy Things You See on the Road

This guy passed me going 90 mph this morning.  I assume a motorcycle is his only form of motorized transportation, and he's figured out a way of fixing the front fork of his bicycle to the back of the motorcycle and fixing the head set or body so it does not move. How this is legal, I do not know -- it appears to be an accident waiting to happen.

The Black Lab and Gifford Pinchot

Gifford Pinchot was appointed special forest agent for the federal government in 1897, and was made chief of the Division of Forestry of the Department of Agriculture in 1898.

In 1905, the bureau was renamed the Forest Service and Pinchot was given control of the national forest reserves. President Theodore Roosevelt, Pinchot's friend and fellow Republican, allowed him a great deal of independence in administrating the service, and he responded by imparting a sense of mission to his staff.

Roosevelt and Pinchot observed the reckless exploitation of the country's limited natural resources and predicted that, unless scientific management of the resources was implemented, America would fail to meet its future demands.

Under Pinchot, the Forest Service added millions of acres to the national forests, controlled their use, and regulated their harvest

Pinchot was fired in 1910 by President Taft in a dispute over coal claims in Alaska.

Pinchot was elected Governor of Pennsylvania and served from 1923 to 1927, and again from 1931 to 1935.

From the web site of Eastern State Penitentiary comes this tale of putative canine injustice:

Pep "The Cat-Murdering Dog" was a black Labrador Retriever admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary on August 12, 1924. Prison folklore tells us that Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot used his executive powers to sentence Pep to Life Without Parole for killing his wife’s cherished cat. Prison records support this story: Pep’s inmate number (C-2559) is skipped in prison intake logs and inmate records.

The Governor told a different story. He said Pep had been sent to Eastern to act as a mascot for the prisoners. He and the Warden, Herbert “Hard-Boiled” Smith, were friends. Pep was much loved, and lived among the inmates at Eastern State for about a decade.

While the truth may never be known, in photographs Pep — with his head down and ears back -- looks GUILTY.

World War I Ratters

Dog Training the Corporation

Charlie Munger to the left, Warren Buffet to the right.
In a 1995 speech, Charlie Munger, the life-long investment partner of Warren Buffet, talked about the “Psychology of Human Misjudgment.”

Munger's 24-point treatise begins by observing that that there is a dramatic “under-recognition of the power of what psychologists call ‘reinforcement’ and what economists call ‘incentives.’”  Munger notes:

Well you can say, ‘Everybody knows that.’ Well I think I’ve been in the top 5% of my age cohort all my life in understanding the power of incentives, and all my life I’ve underestimated it. And never a year passes but I get some surprise that pushes my limit a little farther.

Read the whole thing!  Munger mentions Skinner 16 times, Pavlov 12, and operant conditioning three times.

Incentives are a double-edged sword, of course.  You can incentivize people to do good and you can incentivize them to do evil as well.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Old King :: Neil Young

Tom Sawyer Pick Up Lines

When school broke up at noon, Tom flew to Becky Thatcher, and whispered in her ear:

"Put on your bonnet and let on you're going home; and when you get to the corner, give the rest of 'em the slip, and turn down through the lane and come back. I'll go the other way and come it over 'em the same way."

So the one went off with one group of scholars, and the other with another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the lane, and when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then they sat together, with a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil and held her hand in his, guiding it, and so created another surprising house. When the interest in art began to wane, the two fell to talking. Tom was swimming in bliss. He said:

"Do you love rats?"

"No! I hate them!"

"Well, I do, too — LIVE ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your head with a string."

What Is a Terrier?

This is not a pipe. It's a painting.

President Lincoln was not much for hiding behind language or engaging in obfuscation, and he would sometime pose a riddle to new staffers to underscore the point.

"If you call a tail a leg," he would ask, "how many legs does a dog have?


"No, four.
Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

I tell this tale, because it is more than a little germane when it comes to the taxonomy of dogs.

If I point to a cross between a Dachshund and a Corgi, and proclaim it to be a "Shenandoah Mountain Setter," does that make it a bird dog?


If I pick up a Border Collie at the shelter and insist on calling it a "Black and White Swan," does that make it a bird?


And yet, there seems to be confusion among some people in the dog world, who think words mean nothing. Words do mean something. Take, for example, the word terrier.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Etymology Online, this is the origin and meaning of the term:

c.1440, from O.Fr. chien terrier "terrier dog," lit. "earth dog," from M.L. terrarius "of earth," from L. terra "earth" (see terrain). So called because the dogs pursue their quarry (foxes, badgers, etc.) into their burrows.


A terrier is a small dog that goes to earth and which pursues its quarry -- foxes, badger, etc. -- into their burrows.

I could not have said it better, though I might have given a bit more history.

For example, I might have detailed the fact that Dame Juliana Berners, writing in the Boke of St. Albans (1496) noted that there were 14 basic types of dogs:

"Thyse ben the names of houndes," she wrote, "fyrste there is a Grehoun, a Bastard, aMengrell, a Mastiff, a Lemor, a Spanyel, Raches, Kenettys, Teroures, Butchers' Houndes, Myddyng dogges, Tryndel-taylles, and Prikheridcurrys, and smalle ladyes' poppees that bere awaye the flees."

Later, in 1576, John Keys (who wrote under the Latinized name Johannes Caius) divided the world of dogs into five broad categories. Under the first group type, the Venatici, or dogs used to hunt beasts, could be found:

Leverarws or Harriers; Terrarius or Terrars; Sanguinarius or Bloodhounds; Agaseus or Gazehounds; Leporanus or Grehounds; Loranus or Lyemmer; Vertigus or Tumbler; and Cams furax or Stealer.

In an entirely different group (his fourth category), Caius noted that were various kinds of herding and guard dogs.

Canis pastoralis, or the Shepherd's Dogge; The Mastive, or Bandogge, called Canis Villaticus Or Carbenarius, which hath sundry names derived from sundry circumstances.

Prior to the 19th Century, there were very few "breeds" of dogs; most were just types.

This seems to be a point of confusion for some people who are a bit shaky as to what constitutes a "breed" versus a "type."

The Oxford English Dictionary says a breed is "a line of descendants perpetuating particular hereditary qualities."

In the modern world, it is generally deemed to be an animal that "breeds true" for at least seven generations.

But what does it mean to "breed true?"

Good people can, and do disagree. The American Kennel Club, for example, splits breeds that other registries and countries lump together, and vice versa.

The good news is that the real experts -- the people who actually work their dogs on a regular basis rather than merely parade them around at the end of a string leash, are not too often confused.

A genuine terrierman knows what a true terrier is, just as a running dog man knows what a true sighthound is. And as for the houndsman, he will tell you a good dog is never the wrong color, and the same can be said of those who herd sheep for a living, or depend on dogs to carry them over 200 miles of open arctic snow and ice.

But, of course, these people are in the minority today, aren't they?

Instead of people who engage in honest work with types of dogs, we now have show ring theoreticians who are obsessed with breeds of dogs.

For them, a dog is not what it does, it is whatever the piece of paper says, and that piece of paper is all wrapped up in a romantic history cocked up years ago by an all-breed book writer penning paragraphs about a dog he never owned and never worked.

As a result, we have complete and total nonsense in the world of canine taxonomy.

Take the issue of terriers, for example.

Despite what some folks would have you believe, a "terrier" is not a universal catch-phrase that can be properly tagged to any type of scruffy-looking or game-bred dog. It is a dog that goes to ground.

So then, is a dachshund a terrier? Yes! It is included in all books about working terriers. A true terrier is defined by the work it does, same as a true collie or a true bird dog is defined by the work it does.

A 60-pound hound is not a terrier.

That would seem to be simple and obvious enough, but for some folks it is not. And so, in the topsy-turvy world of the early dog show world, a few odd-looking Otterhounds were once crossed with a working terrier and then called the "Bingley" or "Waterside" terrier, and then later renamed the "Aierdale" terrier.

But can a dog that is almost entirely hound, and which weighs 60 pounds be called a true terrier? Only if you would call a transvestite a woman!

An Aierdale is a hound in form, and it does a hound's work in the field when it is worked. A houndsman knows it is a hound, for it is found in his kennels, and not that of the terrierman.

Aierdales, in turn, were crossed with a herding breed (the Giant Schnauzer) and a molosser breed (the Rottweiler) and a few herding and guard dogs (Caucasian Ovcharkas and Eastern European Shepherds). The resulting cross was called a "Black Russian Terrier," despite the fact that there is no terrier in the breed at all.

Once again, you can call the dog whatever you want, but calling it so does not make it true. A Black Russian Terrier is not a terrier in any way, shape or form.

Going down the list, we have the Tibetan Terrier which is not a terrier (it is a spaniel), and we have the Schnauzer (it is a miniature version of its larger herding-dog relative), and we have the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Pit Bull Terrier, which are molosser (guard dog) breeds.

And then, of course, we have the Bull Terrier which is neither true terrier nor true molosser. It is, instead, the most common type of dog on earth today: the dog dealer's dog. This is an animal cocked up for the pet trade, and for no other purpose than to trot around the ring and lie next to the chair.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a dog being created solely for the purpose of being a pet. That is the work of most dogs, and it is the purpose to which most terrier breeds have devolved. But let's not kid ourselves that these dogs were ever bred for any other purpose, eh? A pet is an honorable enough occupation; let us not gild the lily with nonsense histories or contrived work.

And as for ratting, let me say this clear: any dog can rat. A whippet is a fine ratter. But it is not a terrier. If a dog is too large to go to ground, and has never gone to ground, it is not a true terrier, because it is not a dog of the dirt.


On Leash

I'm always on the Bus

"There are going to be times when we can't wait for somebody. Now, you're either on the bus or off the bus. If you're on the bus, and you get left behind, then you'll find it again. If you're off the bus in the first place-then it won't make a damn." - Ken Kesey

Where are we going?  Further.

The Noose Closes on Blue Buffalo

Nestle Purina filed suit against Blue Buffalo in May of 2014, noting that Blue Buffalo was misleading it customers by claiming that its "True Blue Promise" brand pet foods contained no poultry by-products when, in fact, they did.

Blue Buffalo howled in protest, but Purina said it has the lab tests and Blue Buffalo's own tests showed, in fact, that there was considerable poultry by product in their dog food. Blue Buffalo said it had no way of knowing, since it is just a lick-and-stick company and does not makes its dog food or (apparently) test it.

Blue Buffalo, of course, had used the exact same defense some years earlier, when it was caught mixing Chinese-imported contaminants into their dog food.

Signaling to all that they know they are caught, and that millions of dollars will change hands before it is all over, Blue Buffalo has now added fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation and negligence claims against Wilbur-Ellis and Diversified Ingredients Inc. which were the contractors it hired to make their adulterated dog food.  You add claims on your side when you know payments will have to be made and you are looking to cost-shift.

Nestle Purina PetCare has now filed an amended claim against Blue Buffalo alleging the company misrepresented its LifeSource Bits food for cats and dogs by suggesting they contain a “cornucopia” of premium ingredients and that its Savory Sizzlers treats contain bacon. The packages for the dog and cat foods in question featuring depictions of pumpkins, blueberries, bacon and home-cooked turkey dinners on the packages when, in fact, these are not the main ingredients. Blue Buffalo's response has been to argue (and I am barely paraphrasing) that sure we misrepresent but everyone does, and so freaking what?  Liars gotta lie.  Amiright?

Purina, which has been making their own dry, kibbled, bagged dog food from domestic sources for more than 100 years says on its lawsuit-dedicated web site, Pet Food Honesty:

By-Products Are A Safe And Nutritious Ingredient in Pet Food. This case is not about the nutritional value of by-products and by-product meal, nutrient-rich ingredients that we proudly use in many of our pet food products. Truth-in-labeling and advertising is the issue.

We filed this lawsuit because some of Blue Buffalo’s best-selling products contain by-product meal despite their marketing to the contrary. Our review of manufacturing and shipment records forced Blue Buffalo to finally admit in court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry by-product meal. It is unclear to us if or when the practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing by-product meal is still on store shelves.

Our lawsuit followed decisions against Blue Buffalo by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that found Blue Buffalo’s advertisements to be misleading and disparaging against competitors’ products. Click here for more details. At Purina, we firmly believe that what is in the bag should be on the label.
So what's next? Whether it goes to court or the settlement table, Blue Buffalo is going to lose. It's been caught, and the facts are incontestable. Now the only question is the scope of the sanction and what happens at Blue Buffalo next.

At the end of 2014, the company seems to have floated the rumor that they were going to be purchased by Mars, and then there was another rumored IPO, but from what I can see neither occurred. It would not take much for Blue Buffalo to become a "toxic brand" in terms of marketing, and who would want to buy Blue Buffalo with these charges and allegations hanging over it?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Throw Back Thursday

Mountain Girl, now almost 13.5 years

The late, great Sailor, the dog against which all others are measured. 

The late great Trooper.  A gentleman dog who worked hard.

Je Suis Chien

From The Daily Mail:

This heartbreaking photograph shows heroic police dog Diesel moments before she was blown up by a suicide bomber during the siege in Paris. The seven-year-old Belgian Shepherd died this morning in a firefight with suspected ISIS militants behind the Paris massacre who were holed up in a flat.

She was sent in to the building to sniff out booby traps but was blown to pieces when a woman came out firing her AK-47 at police and then detonated her suicide vest.

Tributes quickly poured in to the much-loved canine who had been decorated with service medals after a distinguished career in the force. One police handler said it was 'a little like losing one of our colleagues' while a Twitter user said Diesel had 'died to defend our colours'.

Diesel's death sparked a wave of mourning across social media, under the Twitter hashtag #JeSuisChien. The hashtag, which means I am a dog and was trending on Twitter, is a reference to the worldwide cry of solidarity 'Je Suis Charlie' in the wake of the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine in January. Source

Achill Island

Achill Island is the largest island off the coast of Ireland. Early human settlements are believed to have been established on Achill around 3000 BC. The island is 87% peat bog.

Small drones cameras are allowing magnificent shots like these to be captured nearly everywhere now.

Achill Island, Ireland from on Vimeo.

Thomas Jefferson at the Police Barricades

 Militarized Minneapolis police guard the Fourth Precinct, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, 

The far right does not spend too much time defending the First Amendment, and the far left does not spend too much time defending the Second Amendment, but our Founders understood their relationship.

I was reminded of that when I read the headline in The Huffington Post this morning: Minneapolis Shooting Officers Identified As Protests Rage; Dozens of protesters have camped in front of the north Minneapolis precinct near where the shooting occurred.

Minnesota officials on Wednesday identified the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man as chanting demonstrators surrounded a key police station.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said Minneapolis Police Department Officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze were involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, Sunday. Both men have been police officers for seven years, including 13 months with the city. The officers, whose race was not disclosed, are on administrative leave during an investigation.

Clark is the latest in a series of unarmed black people to be killed at the hands of police in the United States over the past several years, fueling protests nationwide and rekindling a national civil rights movement.

Community activists have said Clark was unarmed and handcuffed when he was shot shortly after midnight on Sunday. Officials confirmed Clark was unarmed but were still investigating whether he was handcuffed.

We will see what the facts bring to light.  Or maybe not since police are trained liars.

It is always good to remember that in the warped world of policing, lying to witnesses is considered a core competency of the job, and lying to the public is seen as an essential element of their shield of infallibility and impunity.

The Founders of this great nation understood the capricious violence of the police state.  This was not a theory or a rumor.  It was a very real element in their world, and they knew it would always be lurking in ours.

And so they decided that the right of the people to assemble and protest would not be restricted (First Amendment), and that the only way that  right could be guaranteed in a creeping police state, was to make sure the right of the people to own guns for self-defense could not be abridged (Second Amendment).

This is an important point.  In a creeping militarized police state, if only the police have guns, and the courts themselves are part of the problem, then the only safe-check left is People Power, secured by force if necessary.

Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but push has come to shove in almost every other country of the world at some point, and it's a bit naïve to think it could never happen here (since it already has).

Some years back I wrote a piece o
n this blog entitled The Liberal case for Gun Ownership:
The Good Old Boys of Virginia -- Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington -- knew that power belonged to the people only so long as the power of the state could be met with an equal power organized by the populace at large working in tandem.  
Guns were not to be used capriciously, but they were part of the long term plan crafted by our Founding Fathers to protect this great nation from powerful, cunning and patient forces of oppression -- whether those forces came from within or without.

Of course, the gun debate in America quickly boils down to the limits of white oppression of minorities.

White folks want to own all the guns, and are terrified of any black man with one,

As I noted in another post, entitled The Quickest Way to Gun Control:

The quickest way to gun control is if black folks and Hispanics "Open Carry" handguns to their State Capitols and loiter near the parking lots where state and federal legislators and their staffs park their cars.

It was not the federal government, but local and state police that participated in the lynchings of black men and women in the south.

It was not the federal government, but local and state police that routinely arrested young black men on trumped up charges.

It was not the federal government, but local and state police that bashed men and women in gay bars, and called Mexicans "tonks" because of the sound their heads allegedly made when slammed with the butt of a rifle.

And yet, with the NRA today, notice that no one is "AR-15 rattling" about the REAL (and occasionally continuing) civil rights abuse done by local and state police against blacks, Hispanics, gays, and others.

And why not?

Simple: the average NRA member is more than OK with blacks, Hispanics and gays getting beat up by cops. That's what police are for, they think: to protect white, male, heterosexual hegemony.

The pendulum that swings right
will feel a gravitational force pulling it left, and vice versa. These swings are not a defect, but a feature, of democracy. It is a subtle point too often missed by those who sneer at protest, or recoil at gun ownership, but our Foundering Father understood the relationship.

The Second Amendment does not follow the First by accident, and First Amendment is in the pole position by design.