Friday, July 31, 2009

Kennel Club Takes Action Against the Indefensible

I am not shy about beating The Kennel Club and the AKC around the head.

Nothing has been more destructive to the health of dogs than the Kennel Club promotion of bizarre breeds, fake histories, contrived standards, and extreme show ring exaggerations.

That said, following the showing of the BBC's Pedigree Dogs Exposed, the Kennel Club has taken some small steps forward, mostly of a remedial nature, and I applaud that.

Father-daughter and mother-son incest has finally been banned, and a few small changes were made to a few breeds standards, though the Kennel Club continues to allow breed judges to award top ribbons to dogs that are outside those breed standards.

So why this new round of applause?

Simple: The Kennel Club has taken an important step forward, this time to send a message to breeders of show-line German Shepherds that the animals they have been saluting in the ring -- canines best described as "half frog and half dog" -- will no longer cut the mustard.



German Shepherd at the Manchester Show, 2008


In a July 28th notice, the Kennel Club let it be known that it was no longer going to allocate Challenge Certificates to German Shepherd dogs until certain basic health matters were cleared up:


The Kennel Club has recently completed the overall allocation of Championship Status for 2012 (published in the August issue of the Kennel Gazette) but has declined for the time being to allocate Kennel Club Challenge Certificates for that year to German Shepherd Dogs (Alsatians) until it has resolved various matters with the GSD fraternity.

The Kennel Club has been in contact with representatives from the German Shepherd Dog Clubs and Council to discuss concerns raised by judges over the conformation of the breed as frequently seen in the show ring.

During the course of these discussions it has been stressed that the Kennel Club is aware of sensitivities within the breed, but is also acutely conscious that there is a clear need for the KC and breed clubs to work together to resolve health issues of all kinds and put an end to the practice of double handling.

The KC Breed Health and Welfare Strategy Group is particularly keen to ensure both the proper application of the Kennel Club Breed Standard – and the avoidance of exaggeration – by judges and breeders alike. The Kennel Club notes the level of valid criticism from all quarters; not only within the world of dogs, but also from the veterinary profession and from the general public. The KC is aware of similar concerns in other parts of Europe.

GSD breed representatives were asked, in the discussions that have taken place, to help enhance the reputation of this well recognised breed. There was agreement that there were problems with the hindquarters of some dogs, and that dogs with hocks touching or almost touching were most unsatisfactory. It was felt by some that the tendency for this stemmed from the length of the second thigh. Concern has also been expressed over the potential adverse effect on health both of exaggerated toplines which seem in some cases to be almost roached, and of toplines which fall away in an exaggerated manner.

Breed representatives agreed that during their training, judges must be made aware of the need for overall soundness and, in particular, strength in the hindquarters.


Well there's progress!

It is almost the one-year anniversary of Pedigree Dogs Exposed, and still things are moving along.

Of course, things are only moving because of fear that unless The Kennel Club steps up and shows it is capable of implementing real change, that change will be imposed from without. As I have noted in the past, those who will not fence up for themselves, generally find themselves fenced in by others.

The real concern, I believe, is Patrick Bateson's report, which The Kennel Club itself has commissioned. That report is not expected before the end of the year, but if The Kennel Club is taking action now to deal with the poor movement and roached backs of German Shepherd's (not a new phenomenon!), it must mean they have real fear.

Meanwhile, the American Kennel Club continues along, with its fingers in it ears and its eyes shut, its own roached-back and nearly-lame showline German Shepherds the laughing stock of the dog world. The U.S. Secret Service will not even consider using an American German Shepherd. Look at the quality, and it's no wonder!

Happy Birthday to the Outdoor Pressroom

Happy Birthday to the Outdoor Pressroom which is celebrating 10 years online.

He's Supposed to Look Like That?



The ugliest dog in Britain is ... drum roll.... a Chinese Crested.

In short he's the same breed as just about every other "ugliest dog" winner in the world.

From The Daily Mail (which identifies the dog as a Mexican Hairless):

Dawn Fields, head kennel maid at the Hillside Kennels in Waltham Abbey, Essex, said: "When I first saw him I thought, 'Oh my God, what is that? What an ugly b****r'. I thought he had a flea allergy because it makes some dogs lose their fur. But then I found out he's suppose to look like that."

Despite being worth hundreds of pounds, [the dog named] ET has languished at the kennels for months and staff think his quirky looks - a fluffy white head and tail and a bald pink body with black spots - are putting people off.

Mrs Fields said: 'Normally it only takes a few weeks to find a dog a new home but no one wants ET. I think it's purely because of his looks - he's an ugly little fellow.
'We've put him in different kennels to see if that helps. We put him in the first one people see as they come in, but they hurry on past him. Then we put him in the last kennel, but nothing seems to help.


Anyone in the U.K. interesting in giving the dog a new home can contact Hillside Kennels on 01992 892881.

Frontline and Heartgard Maker Merial to Be Sold

Merck, which owns Merial, the maker of Frontline and Heartgard, says it is going to sell Merial to Sanofi-Aventis for $4 billion.

Merial, based in Duluth, Georgia., earned about $2.6 billion last year, and did $1 billion in sales of Frontline which protects dogs and cars against fleas and ticks.

Why did Merck sell Merial? Simple: Merck itself is being bought by Pfizer.

Want to know more about these companies? Here are a few headlines




Note, that these are frauds against Medicare and Medicaid alone. Additional recoveries have been made by private insurance companies trying to recover money stolen from them using similar schemes.

Think these big pharmaceutical companies are above defrauding U.S. consumers when it comes to veterinary medicines, where consumer laws are weak or non-existent, and where neither the U.S. Government nor private insurance companies limit kickbacks, price-gouging, billing for medically unnecessary services, and upcoding?

Don't be naive!
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Can You Hear Me Now?



Jonathan sends this picture, above, from South Africa, where he notes, "We have cell phones, but not much sense of self preservation."

For those interested in the native genius of Africa (and there is quite a lot), I highly recommend the Afrigadget web site. For example, check out:

Or how about the terrific bicycle ambulance and general haul vehicle being built (and saving lives) in Zambia, below.

If America wants to change Africa and America, together, here's how you do it: Allow these bicycle creations to be imported into the U.S., duty-free.



Want to help Africa right now, and for very little money? Here's how: click and treat the folks who click and treat. The genius who will save the world is in Africa right now. Help Afrigadget find him.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coffee and Provocation



  • Scientists Discover The Most Obvious Thing About Dogs:
    Science Daily reports
    : "Dog breeds selected to work in visual contact with humans, such as sheep dogs and gun dogs, are better able to comprehend a pointing gesture than those breeds that usually work without direct supervision." Follow up research is expected to show that almost anyone can train a retriever.

  • Worst Veterinary Offer Not in a Godfather Movie:
    Back in February, Bayer was bribing gave out $20 "discount coupons" for "preventative" veterinary care to people who clicked on an online offer. Eh? A discount on what, you might wonder? Why, for whatever unnamed problem, test or disease the veterinarian could come up with on the spot. Oh, and don't worry: there would be no upcoding or price-gouging. Promise! It reminds me of the woman who spent $5 a day on lottery tickets. I would have told her she was a loser for only $3 a day.


  • NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg Try to Confiscate a Flintlock
    New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Police Department say a man needs to register his smoke-pole flintlock, despite a New York City law that says he most definitely does not have to register it. Terrierman wants to see Mayor Bloomberg's original birth certificate.

  • Idaho's Wide-Stance Consultant:
    Former Senator Larry Craig, of "dollar-tug-job" fame (allegedly) is back in business.

  • How the British See the Republican Party:
    From The Independent: "What leadership there is, so it seems to this ignorant observer across the ocean, comes from the grass roots ... the sort of God fearin', gun-totin', sister-shaggin' sweethearts who screeched 'terrorist' and 'kill him' when John McCain mentioned Obama on the stump."

  • The Continuing Crisis:
    Oral Sex Cause of Throat Cancer Rise.

  • The $64 Tomato:
    This looks like a book I might enjoy, but best of all, there's a
    free NPR summary with a nice audio interview of the author telling how he battled a groundhog which took 10,000 volts from an electric fence and kept on coming. Nice. Check it out.


  • Organic is Not Healthier for You:
    There is no evidence that organically-produced foods are nutritionally superior to conventionally produced foods, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
    Left unasked is whether dumping vast quantities of bug-damaged fruits and vegetables while employing large numbers of illegal alien to do the weeding, is better for the environment than pesticide and herbicides.

  • Got Farm Workers?
    Dairy farm jobs are as steady as a clock, but The Wall Street Journal reports that farms are hiring illegal aliens because most Americans find hard physical work in a rural setting for $11.38 an hour not all that appealing. Says dairy man Ray Souza: "I haven't had a non-Hispanic want to do this work in 10 years." Souza and his fellow dairy men are now lobbying Congress for more foreign workers. They claim year-round dairy work is "a job an American won't do." Meanwhile, agricultural economist Phil Martin at the University of California at Davis says if labor costs go up a little more (i.e. if we enforce our immigration laws a little better), higher wages might spur the kind of investments in dairy technology needed to attract American workers.

  • Hell Freezes Over at the U.S.-Mexico Border:
    The Center for Immigration Studies
    reports that "Our best estimate is that the illegal alien population declined 13.7 percent (1.7 million) from a peak of 12.5 million in the summer of 2007 to 10.8 million in the first quarter of 2009."

  • Small Signs of Hope:
    Nepal reports that they have 121 breeding tigers left -- more than many experts expected. In Cambodia, researchers have discovered that the extremely rare white-shouldered ibis does better with some human activity around, as these birds prefer to forage in open and accessible sites with low vegetation and bare soil.


Order your coffee mug with your breed.
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Organic and Local Farming by the Numbers



About a weeks ago, I wrote a post noting that despite his essays and poems advocating non-mechanized, locally-grown, organically-grown food production, author Wendell Berry's might not be the best person to lead a sensible discussion about U.S. farm policy.

As I noted, Berry's own farm produces feed corn, small grains, and tobacco. No commercial fresh fruits and vegetables of any kind are grown.

As for tobacco, the nicotine that comes from that destructive plant is such a terrible insecticide it is banned from being sprayed on U.S. food crops.

The little "joker in the deck" with Wendell Berry is that if we were to try to "eat local and eat organic" from the commercial crops he grows, we would starve to death in short order.

What was amazing about the Wendell Berry post was how many responses it engendered from people who seemed to think America is full of farms growing organic fruits and vegetables. Just go down to your local road-side vegetable stand to pick up locally-grown produce.

Eh?

What road-side stand?

Am I living in a different America from everyone else? I have been driving around this country for a long time, and outside of a few parts of California, I have not seen much land in fruit and vegetable production, nor have I seen too many road-side fruit and vegetable stands.

Am I missing something?

I didn't think so, but just to be sure, I decided to look at the numbers.

A quick glance at the CIA World Fact Book confirmed that American is still a very large country with approximately 2,427,000,000 acres of land.

Unfortunately, less than 19 percent of this land is arable, and only 0.21 percent is in permanent crops.

Of course, 0.21 percent of 2.4 billion acres is still a lot of land. In fact, it's about 500 million acres.

Of the approximately 500 million acres in permanent crop production in the U.S., we have about 72 million acres in corn, 72 million acres in soybeans, 60 million acres in hay, 53 million acres in wheat, 8 million acres in sorghum, and 3 million acres in rice.

In addition to these 367 millions acres of machine-harvested grains and feed, we also have machine-harvested barley, rye, peanuts, sugarcane, sugar beets, flax, and sunflowers to round things out.

Floating on top of all this, we have about 4 million acres in fruit and nut trees, and about 6.8 million acres in vegetables.

Of the 6.8 million acres in vegetables, only 1.7 million acres is grown for fresh vegetables -- the rest is cropped for machine-harvested potatoes (1.2 million acres), machine-harvested dried beans (2 million acres), or canned vegetables (1.3 million acres harvested by both machine and hand).

In addition, a significant portion of the fruit and nut acreage is also machine-harvested -- wine grapes are now picked by mechanical "fingers," while fruit and nut trees are routinely shake-harvested.

All in all, only about 0.0021 percent of all land in the U.S. is in fruit and vegetable production that is not being mechanically planted and harvested, and more than half of this is in California.

Why do I stress mechanical planting and harvesting?

Two reasons. The first, is that Wendell Berry and his adherents like to rail against "industrial agriculture" even as they say they respect farming.

Sorry, that doesn't work for me.

Farming is not some romantic and abstract notion. It's tractors, cultivators, electric fences, bailers, graders, post pounders, dryers, feed bunkers, and electronic monitors.

You cannot tell me you respect farmers while telling me you disrespect the tools and methods they use to make a living.

Second, there is the little matter of labor.

As I noted in an earlier post entitled The Problem Is Not in Our Fields,
If you have food crops that cannot be mechanized (and many crops cannot), then you need a massive labor force that will show up on call and without fail to work in the heat and bugs for 12 hour-days, and for as many days as it takes to bring in the crops.

And then, when the crops are in, you need those people to disappear until they are needed again at a moment's notice (i.e. during that magical three-day window when your fruits and vegetables are ready for harvest at maximum value).

If we get rid of all our corn and soy bean fields, and replace them with locally-grown truck gardens, who is going to pick the lettuce, cabbage, string beans, onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, and zucchini?


Of course, the traditional American answer has been slaves.

We tried indentured servants, but the ungrateful bastards ran away.

We brought in Africans who had a harder time escaping, but Lincoln freed them in 1863.

After that we had to go to the end of the earth to bring in the Chinese and Japanese, but that game ended with the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Asiatic Barred Zone, and the Gentleman's Agreement with Japan, so we brought in Mexicans until that flow was ended (at least for a time) by Edward R. Murrow's Harvest of Shame television documentary in 1964.

So now we have machines in our fields where we can, and illegal aliens where we can't.

There is not much in between: some recent legal immigrants, some refugees, a few college kids, and a few drunks. That about rounds it out.

Is there any wonder305 million to 500 million (and rising!) while we bring back peonage?




Harvest of shame: Foreign labor plants squash in North Carolina, 2005.

Of course, I have not even mentioned organic fruits and vegetables, have I?

Nor have I talked about buying locally-grown produce.

Let's look at the data there.

Across the U.S. we harvested less than 98,000 acres of certified organic fruits and nuts in 2005, the latest year for which there USDA-published data. Of these 98,000 certified organic acres, 57,000 acres were in California

You want to know how many acres of organic fruit were grown in Wendell Berry's home state of Kentucky?

Two.

Two acres in 2005! And that's for a state with a population of 4.1 million people.

Of course, much of the rest of the nation is doing too much better.

That same year, Ohio grew only 57 acres of organic fruit, Pennsylvania 42 acres, Louisiana 63 acres, Maryland 16 acres, Alabama 0 acres, New Jersey 50 acres, South Carolina 0 acres, West Virginia 0 acres, Illinois 5 acres, and Delaware 0 acres. Click here to see more state data (Excel spreadsheet).

How about organic vegetables?

Here too, we find rather paltry production, with just 98,000 acres across the U.S., of which 58,000 acres were grown in California.

You want to know how many acres of organic vegetables were grown in Kentucky?

Just 25 acres.

That same year, Ohio had only 581 acres in organic vegetables, Pennsylvania 869 acres, Louisiana 11 acres, Maryland 361 acres, Alabama 4 acres, New Jersey 237 acres, South Carolina 53 acres, West Virginia 63 acres, Illinois 357 acres, and Delaware just one 1 acre. Click here to see more state data (Excel File).

Bottom line: Anyone who thinks America can feed itself on locally-grown, non-mechanized, organically-grown fruits and vegetables is living a rich fantasy life.

To be clear: I am NOT against organic gardening.

As I noted in my very-positive review of Michael Pollan's book, Ominvore's Dilemma, I have been reading Organic Gardening since long before it was cool.

But gardening is not farming.

You do not farm with a trowel and bags of potting soil.

You do not farm by turning over a compost pile with a hoe, or by stirring coffee grounds and banana peels into "night soil" collected from the base of your composting toilet.

I am not against that, but it is not farming. It is gardening.

It is a question of scale.

In a world of 6.7 billion people, you do not put food on everyone's table by watering from a garden hose snaked from a tap.

In America, farming is done with machines, and there is no apology for doing so.

After all, it is only because of machines that the U.S. is able to feed itself.

It is only because of machines that we are a net food exporter.

As the U.S. Department of Commerce notes,
Foods, feeds, and beverages represented $108.4 billion of U.S. exports in 2008, and was the second largest export growth category (end-use) for the U.S., with exports rising $24.2 billion (or 28.7 percent) over 2007. The U.S. trade surplus in foods, feeds, and beverages rose $16.8 billion to reach $19.4 billion in 2008, up from a surplus of $2.6 billion in 2007.

Nothing said here is meant to discourage people from doing more backyard gardening.

And when you garden, please use fewer pesticides and more organic fertilizers.

If you can afford it (and many people can), try to buy foods that have a positive environmental and social agenda woven into their manufacture, whether that is local-grown, organic, or fair-trade.

Try to learn more about modern agricultural methods such as no-till, strip-till, and ridge-till practices, as well as winter cover-crop production, sewage-sludge fertilizer, drip irrigation systems, and mechanical harvesting innovations.

But do not turn your nose up at farm mechanization or overseas agricultural production.

Mechanization is what allows farmers to farm in the United States, and it is what allows old people and poor people to afford food.

If this is a surprise to you, then I suggest going out this next weekend, with shovel in hand, to dig a five foot deep hole in the ground just to see what manual labor feels like. Digging by hand is farming without mechanization.

After you have dug your five-foot-deep hole, I suggest spending a little time with "the Google" so you can discover the average annual income, from all sources, for those age 65+. It is not quite what you think! After paying for rent, gasoline, prescription drugs, clothes, heat, and car maintenance, how is it that these people are supposed to afford $5 tomatoes?

And as for overseas production, it is the only logical alternative to a new slave trade in the United States for crops that cannot yet be mechanically planted and harvested.

Without a doubt, overseas production is the future of organic produce at your grocery store, as the differential cost of manual weed control in Mexico versus the U.S. is $50 per acre as compared to $500 per acre.

The bottom line is this: The idea that there are vast acres of locally-grown, organic, non-mechanically harvested fruits and vegetables in the U.S. is pure fantasy. So too is the notion that America's roadsides are littered with fruit and vegetable stands selling such produce. Yes, go ahead ahead and cultivate an organic garden. But gardening is not farming. If American agriculture is going to be saved, it will be with a tractor and not a hoe.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

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.

Pearly White Profits From Teeth Cleaning


This is how a Jack Russell Terrier smiles.

The cover of the February issue of Veterinary Economics features an article entitled Pearly White Profits in which veterinarians are advised that canine and feline dentistry are great profit centers.

Tips are given on how to get the receptionist to bill pad suggest new services such as teeth cleaning, and the article says every veterinary practice should have associates "devote two to five minutes of every 15- to 20-minute office visit to talking about dental care."

The article says everyone in the practice should "make a list of the top 10 things you can do to increase the number of dental procedures your practice performs."

Right.

But you know what this article never says or even suggests? That there is any scientific evidence to support the notion that there is any medical benefit to annual teeth cleaning.

Absolute silence there!

And you know why? Because no such evidence exists.

And, here's the kicker: that's not just true for dogs, it's true for humans too. As the Journal of Evidence-based Dentistry notes, there is "insufficient evidence to understand the effect of routine scaling and polishing".

And that's for humans. For dogs?

Well, do you really need to know which way the wind blows?

Think it through for a minute. What's the main difference between the teeth of a human and the teeth of dog?

That's right! The human can be expected to live 80 years with adult teeth, while the dog will generally be dead after 12 or 13 years.

But there's more.

You see, human teeth cleaning can be done with the human wide awake and sitting up in a chair, while canine dentistry has to be done with the dog completely knocked out under general anesthesia.

That's a big difference!

And the reason that's a big difference is that anesthesia is risky for both humans and dogs.

In fact, complete general anesthesia is so unsafe that today, when a human heart stent is put in, the patient is almost never put completely under. The sames is true for laser eye surgery, most small tumor removal, and carpal tunnel surgery.

In fact, veterinary anesthesia is so dangerous your vet will insist on doing a full run-up of blood tests before it is done, and even then anesthesia complications and fatalities are fairly common.

And yet, your vet cannot show you a single scientific study that shows that dental scaling and polishing on a dog or cat has the slightest medical benefit.

Not one.

Bottom line: Annual teeth cleaning is not about canine health care, it's about veterinary wealth care.

The entire field was invented, approximately 20 years ago as a way of bringing more money into veterinary practices to replace money disappearing because of changing vaccine protocols for dogs and cats.

Go ahead and brush your dog's teeth. Home-based prevention is good medicine. But when it comes to an annual dental cleaning at the vets, just say NO.

Does that mean there is no place for canine dentistry?  No, not at all.  I recommend taking in a dog when it's about five years old for a teeth cleaning, and then again when it's about 10.  The cost is high, and the benefits are not clear, but a good scaling of the teeth may make them look a little better and may reduce doggy breath a bit (but do not count on much change on either score).  

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The Jab in the Pocket

Vaccines are an area where veterinarians have worked very hard to confuse things.

Those who have children know that after they become teenagers, they are pretty much done with vaccines. Are dogs different?

No.

It turns out that after that first round of shots, completed in the first year of a dog's life, no other vaccines are necessary, except rabies.

Ronald D. Schultz, chairman of the University of Wisconsin's Department of Pathobiological Sciences, and the world's foremost expert on dog and cat vaccines, describes how he takes care of his own dogs and cats in the March 1998 issue of Veterinary Medicine:

"My own pets are vaccinated once or twice as pups and kittens, then never again except for rabies."


More recently, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) published Canine Vaccine Guidelines, Recommendations, and Supporting Literature. This 2003 report notes:

"We now know that booster injections are of no value in dogs already immune, and immunity from distemper and vaccinations last for a minimum of 7 years based on challenge studies, and up to 15 years (a lifetime) based on antibody titer."


Bottom Line: If your veterinarian is pushing annual Disptemper, Parvo, Corona and other shots for your adult dog, he or she is ripping you off and billing you for medically unnecessary services.

Change vets!.

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Do You Feel .... Inadequate?



This is a real ad for a real pharmaceutical product.

Below, a little "Bonus Brooke" in which Ms. Shields explains the basics of Darwin, genetics, natural selection and even genetic drift.



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Monday, July 27, 2009

Rule Britannia, The Great Nanny State



Fark reports that:

"The nation that once ruled over half of the world and which stood alone against the Nazis now requires proof of age before it will let you buy a pizza cutter."


Don't believe it? I didn't either. So here's the headline and the link:

Woman, 28, told to prove age to buy pizza-cutter


Perhaps they thought it would be used to dock a terrier's tail?
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Cruise Ship Impales Whale, Brings to Dock on Bow


Fin whale impaled on bow ball of the Sapphire Princess cruise ship.

Does this boat smell like fish?

From The London Times:

A passenger cruise ship arrived at port in Vancouver on the weekend with a dead fin whale lodged on its bow.

The Sapphire Princess, from the Princess Cruise Lines, arrived in Canada from Alaska on Saturday morning with the whale speared to the ship’s bulbous bow, the part of the bow which cuts through the water.

It is not known how long the carcass of the fin whale, estimated to be approximately 70 feet long, had been attached to the ship before it docked at the Port of Vancouver’s Canada Place terminal

A Bag Of Groceries



I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some fun food stuff.

This is not "core" food, i.e., it is not my morning granola breakfast cereal (made in the USA and distributed from California) or milk (from a dairy in North Carolina), or bags of boil-it-in-the-pouch Indian food (made in India) which I put over jasmin rice (grown in Thailand), and not spaghetti (made in USA, distributed from California) and tomatoes sauce (made in USA, distributed from Indiana), or potatoes (grown in the USA) or hot dogs (made in the USA), or coffee (Sumatran at the moment, but sometimes sourced from Kenya, Columbia, Mexico or Tanzania).

This is fun food stuff.

The total cost for one bag of food: $34.61. Here is what I got, what it is, where it came from, and what it cost.

  • The Butternut Squash Soup says "17% organic ingredients" and includes filtered water, organic soybeans, natural cane sweetener, sea salt, expeller pressed canola oil, rice flour, natural flavor, onion powder, garlic powder and ginger. No source is given for this soup other than distributed by Trader Joe's of Needham, Massachusetts. The soup contains no preservatives, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors. Cost: $2.49 for a quart.

  • The Carrot Ginger Soup has water, carrots, onions, potatoes, honey, organic evaporated cane sugar, rice flour, ginger root, expeller pressed canola oil and/or saflower oil, seat salt, spices, natural flavor. No source is given other than distributed by Trader Joe's of Needham, Massachusetts. The soup contains no preservatives, no artificial colors and no artificial flavors. Cost: $2.79 for a quart.

  • The Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup (2 boxes) is water, sweet corn, potatoes, onions, honey, roasted poblano peppers, cilantro, sea salt, expeller pressed canola oil and/or saflower oil and/or sunflower oil. No source is given other than distributed by Trader Joe's of Needham, Massachusetts. The soup contains no preservatives, no artificial colors, and no artificial flavors. Cost: $2.79 per quart

  • Two plastic tubs of black licorice Scottie Dog candies, made in San Francisco - $2.99 each. I freeze these so I eat them a little slower.

  • A package of 3 gorgeous fresh peppers in three colors (orange, red, yellow), grown in the Netherlands - $3.49. I have no idea of what I am going to do with these peppers, but they were gorgeous.

  • A package of crystallized ginger, from Thailand - $1.49. A guily pleasure.

  • A package of "soft and juicy" dried mango, from Thailand - $1.69. An exotic snack.

  • A package of chile-spice pineapple, no source, $2.49. An experiment. I can already tell you a failed one.

  • A package of six kiwi fruit, from Chile - $2.49.

  • A dozen brown extra-large eggs, from Pennsylvania -$2.29. Generally eaten hard-boiled.

  • A tub-canister of Chai Instant Spice tea, no source. - $2.99. Another experiment.
Anything to learn here? Maybe. I eat food from five continents. You probably do too. I do not eat much meat. Those colored bell peppers, it turns out, are grown in greenhouses, and are even imported into Florida. Go figure. I guess some parts of American agriculture are about as up-to-date as American car design and manufacturing.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Good News is the Bad News is Exaggerated


This was your TV in 1977.

A friend writes that he strongly suspects he is not a "modern" man.

There is something about the modern world that disturbs his rational conscience. He is not exactly sure what it is.

"It's rather a conundrum and a very real impediment to my peace of mind."


I think I know how he feels. I feel it too.

Or should I say I still feel it. The feeling is a little less pronounced that it once was, but it is still there.

It slithers out late at night, tips its hat in my general direction, and disappears around the corner into a shadow of doubt. Where the hell are we going with all this? How does it all end? I can feel it; I can smell it. Something wicked this way walks.

I talk to a friend about this generalized feeling of malaise. This is the same fellow who once told me: "Your mind is like a bad neighborhood; don't go in there alone." He knows me.

"I feel a sense of impending doom."

"Right," he says, taking a sip of coffee at Starbucks. "Do you know what that is?"

"No."

"That's impending doom."


And then he smiles.

He says we all have it.

And why wouldn't we? We were all raised in the full light of the Atomic Bomb, with duck-and-cover as Lesson One in our grade school plans.

We have been told that the water we drink is toxic, that the male fish in the river are gravid with eggs, and that 40% of all animals are going extinct tomorrow.

We are informed, almost on a daily basis, that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and that that hand basket is being delivered to us by terrorists.

Our jobs are sliding out from underneath us, even as we get older and health care costs skyrocket.

The place where we hunted last year is now a Wal-Mart, and our 15-year daughter is on the Pill.

Our new car is made of plastic, and we can't find the dipstick.

The American flag flying from our porch is made in China, and the girl serving us eggs at Denny's was made in Mexico.

My friend has his own version of this windup, but you get the general idea.

Everything is happening too fast, and there is a general sense, among all of us, that we are losing control.

But it's not quite as bad as we think, he says. We need to perform an autopsy on our fears.

And so I do that.

I remind myself that the nuclear treaties have actually worked. The U.S. and the Soviet Union have one-fourth the number of atomic bombs they had two decades ago, and neither side is rattling is sword in a believable way. In fact, no one on earth has an Air Force or a Navy worth worrying about except the United States.

The water in our rivers and lakes is cleaner now than when we were kids. So too is the air we breathe.

Fish have always been able to change sex at will -- we just didn't know it.

The best weapon the terrorists have come up with is a couple of guys with box cutters. We are not fighting Lex Luthor.

Yes, our jobs are sliding out from underneath us, but that has been happening for 200 years -- horse shoes to iron rails, iron rails to cars, cars to flying saucers. Every era brings declining industries and rising ones too. The direction forward may not be up for all of the people all of the time, but it's generally up for most of the people most of the time. In America, even the homeless watch color TV and get hot meals and a free bed at the shelter.

Yes, we all have a sense of impending doom from time to time. That is natural. It is probably how we are supposed to feel. Like fox, humans are naturally wary. We distrust new things that show up on old ground.

And, truth be told, there is a lot of new stuff: New roads, new laws, new TV shows, new foods, new people, new electronics, new medicines, new ways of producing old things. By the time I figure out how all the features on my new cell phone work, it is out of date, and time for a new one.

We can never catch up.

And yet, most things are better now, aren't they? Who wants to return to 1975 health care? Who wants to return to their 1975 job, their 1975 house, their 1975 wage, their 1975 phone, or their 1975 car? Even after the real estate crash, my house is worth twice what I paid for it.

And yet it is easy to lose any sense of good. After all, who wants to talk about good on television? No one!

The media knows there are no ratings to be had by saying we are going to stumble forward and be alright in the end. Disaster and doom sell. Apocalypse sells. "If it bleeds, it leads"

CNN knows its ratings surge with every war. Triple murders, assassinations and child disappearances are good for Fox television's bottom line. Never mind that these things never actually happen to any of us. We listen to cable TV talking about some dead blond girl, and we never internalize that it's a child we do no know, in a city we have never visited, and the murder occurred two years ago. This is not news. This is olds. This is a contrived crisis: a cocked up story designed to suck us in so that we will watch more TV commercials. This is television appealing to our basest fears and our most prurient interests. It has nothing to do with the reality any of us is actually living.

Ditto for so many stories we hear about the natural world. We are told everything is about to go extinct, but the IUCN Red List shows that over the last 400 years very few animals and plants actually have, and most of these have been endemic birds on very small tropical islands.

Meanwhile, we ignore the natural world we really live in.

In America today, we are knee-deep in ducks, deer, mountain lions, alligators, buffalo, manatee, fox, raccoon, hawks, bear, falcons, eagles, wolves, coyotes, jack rabbits and elk.

Across the world, more and more wild land is being put into protected parks, even as population growth is slowing, child mortality is falling, access to clean water is improving, and starvation is in decline.

We bemoan the loss of small farms, but we are not celebrating the fact that large farms are more efficient, farmers now get vacations, food is cheaper, and the real problem in America is not starvation but obesity.

We are awash in vitamins, milk, and soap. It is a pretty great thing if you ask me.

But we ignore that. Instead we like to scare ourselves a little by dwelling almost exclusively on the negative, no matter how small or unlikely.

It's like the mind games we play when we are in deep woods and it is beginning to get dark. We have never actually seen a rabid coyote. We have never come across a cougar following us on a hiking trail, or an alligator sliding off the bank while we are swimming.

But we like to imagine it could happen, and so we bounce that danger around in our mind and write and talk about it a bit more than we should. Never mind that a bee sting is more likely to kill us than a wolf.

We do the same with food. We read unpronounceable ingredients on the side of packaged foods. Dihydrogen Monoxide? What the hell is that? It must cause cancer.

We fret about the possibility of a single death from nuclear energy, while ignoring the scores of very real deaths that occur from coal mining every year.

We elevate the scary and exotic because it is more interesting than the boring and conventional. And, as a consequence, we have this vague sense of impending doom hovering over everything.

And yet the future keeps coming, doesn't it?

And always, it seems a little bigger, and a little more complex than we are really comfortable with.

The future is fast and unknown.

The past, on the other hand, was slower. And we know how that story turns out.

A lot of good stuff lies in the past.

But isn't that the good news?

We can keep all of the good stuff we want. After all, don't we still run this country by choice?

We can still fish with a cane pole; we do not have to buy graphite.

We can still get an aluminum canoe; no reason to buy plastic.

We can still grow vegetables in our back yard, walk to school, bicycle to work, and run the dogs in the park.

We can still hunt, go to the high school basketball game, and watch old episodes of I Love Lucy.

And if we don't do that, then we are making a choice.

And, in truth, that choice is often logical.

A plastic canoe is better than an aluminum one.

A four-piece pack rod is better than a hard-to-carry cane pole.

Jon Stewart is generally funnier than Lucille Ball.

And so we come to the troubling truth: For the most part, the world is getting better.

Is not the Internet a marvel? How about color television, the I-pod and central air?

I have fruits and vegetables at the store I could never have dreamed of as a child -- kiwis, mangoes, Asian apples. If I want Tang and marshmallows and Graham Crackers, they are still there, but now they are in competition with so many other things that they only rarely make it into the basket.

Is that a bad thing?

No. And yet, just saying the names of these childhood foods creates a certain level of nostalgia.

I am reminded that the world was once slower and simpler.

Whatever happened to the smell of a hay loft? Whatever happened to the smell of old varnish in a boat house? They have been replaced by giant round bails wrapped in plastic and gleaming fiberglass decks. And why? Because no one want to lift 2,000 square bails into an expensive and hard-to-maintain barn, and everyone knows a wooden boat is 200 seams just waiting to sink.

And so the world changes rapidly, and with the change we feel a growing sense of unease.

Our comfort foods are gone. The secret woods of our youth have been razed to expand a parking lot. It has been years since we walked down a creek looking for tadpoles. Instead we check email, do taxes, and run to the next appointment.

And yet, most of us fight back in a fashion, don't we?

Some of us hunt with dogs or hawks in a manner unchanged since the Middle Ages. Others have large vegetable gardens, or spin their own wool for knitting, or have backyard chickens.

Some people carve wood, ride horses, or hunt with black powder.

I have friends who collect toy soldiers and sail old E-scows. I have friends who tinker on vintage cars and trucks, who herd sheep, and who have kitchens full of Ball jars for home canning.

Nothing loved is ever lost.

And yet, much of what people are doing now is not exactly traditional.

Most of the people with backyard chickens did not grow up with backyard chickens.

Most of the people flying hawks and digging on terriers did not grow up with these sports.

Thirty-five years ago, almost no one shot black powder.

So what is going on?

I am not sure. But one possibility is that even as we rush towards the future, some part of us is setting up a belaying point to the past.

It is a kind of psychic anchor -- our way of hedging our bets.

Yes, we are jumping off the cliff into the Great Unknown, but we will hold on to a few bits as a touchstone to the past -- a reminder not only of simpler times, but also of the notion that we might be able to still do it the old way, without the new technology, the nouvelle cuisine, the video games, and the Starbucks Coffee.

Maybe. We are not sure.

We remember what happened the last time the electricity went out in the house. We remember the time they were working on the pipes down the street and the water was turned off for a whole day. We remember what coastal Louisiana looked like after Hurricane Katrina, and the wild look in the eyes of the folks in California who have seen fire licking at the shingles of their house.

And so we do not cut the cord to the cable TV, and we do not pour sugar into the gas tank. Instead, we put 20 pounds of rice and 20 pounds of beans into two old plastic paint drums, and we make sure we pack in one of those new radio-flashlight-generator-cellphone-charger gizmos and a few bottles of water purifier to boot.

And then we go out for coffee.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Get the Hell Out of My House

You know what's funny?

What's funny is all the right-wing self-defense, right-to-carry, private property conservatives who are as silent as church mice when it comes to the Henry Louis Gates arrest in Boston.

You see, what happend in Boston was not a close call: the cop was wrong, was poorly trained, and violated Mr. Gates' rights as a citizen and home owner. As Lowry Heussler writes:


The crime of disorderly conduct, beloved by cops who get into arguments with citizens, requires that the public be involved. Here's the relevant law from the Massachusetts Appeals Court, with citations and quotations omitted:

The statute authorizing prosecutions for disorderly conduct, G.L. c. 272, § 53, has been saved from constitutional infirmity by incorporating the definition of "disorderly" contained in § 250.2(1)(a) and (c) of the Model Penal Code. The resulting definition of "disorderly" includes only those individuals who, "with purpose to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof ... (a) engage in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; or ... (c) create a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.' "Public" is defined as affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access.

The lesson most cops understand (apart from the importance of using the word "tumultuous," which features prominently in Crowley's report) is that a person cannot violate 272/53 by yelling in his own home.

Read Crowley's report and stop on page two when he admits seeing Gates's Harvard photo ID. I don't care what Gates had said to him up until then, Crowley was obligated to leave. He had identified Gates. Any further investigation of Gates' right to be present in the house could have been done elsewhere. His decision to call HUPD seems disproportionate, but we could give him points for thoroughness if he had made that call from his car while keeping an eye on the house. Had a citizen refused to leave Gates' home after being told to, the cops could have made an arrest for trespass.

But for the sake of education, let's watch while Crowley makes it worse. Read on. He's staying put in Gates' home, having been asked to leave, and Gates is demanding his identification. What does Crowley do? He suggests that if Gates wants his name and badge number, he'll have to come outside to get it. What? Crowley may be forgiven for the initial approach and questioning, but surely he should understand that a citizen will be miffed at being questioned about his right to be in his own home. Perhaps Crowley could commit the following sentences to memory: "I'm sorry for disturbing you," and "I'm glad you're all right."

Spoiling for a fight, Crowley refuses to repeat his name and badge number. Most of us would hand over a business card or write the information on a scrap of paper. No, Crowley is upset and he's mad at Gates. He's been accused of racism. Nobody likes that, but if a cop can't take an insult without retaliating, he's in the wrong job. When a person is given a gun and a badge, we better make sure he's got a firm grasp on his temper. If Crowley had called Gates a name, I'd be disappointed in him, but Crowley did something much worse. He set Gates up for a criminal charge to punish Gates for his own embarrassment.


So where is the right-wing outrage at the over-reaching of the police state?

Where is the instruction piece that says this is why every black man in America should be strapped with a Glock even as they walk around in their own home (not to mention when they go to the Mall, to Church, or to a Sarah Palin rally)?

Oh. Right. Henry Louis Gates is a black man. In that case, what the hell did he expect would happen to him? The man was being uppity.

And he was being uppity to a good, God-fearing law enforcement official to boot! He's lucky he was not shot. In fact, he should have been shot. How else will we ever teach black people to never question authority?
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Friday, July 24, 2009

MSNBC Gets Spanked for Cause



Charles Pierce is awesome in this clip.

He refuses to let MSNBC off the hook for booking right-wing nut cases in the morning while acting as if it is purer than Caesers Wife during Countdown in the evening.

Pierce hammers the 20-something guest bookers at CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox and the other TV networks for giving air time to people who are well and truly crazy.

David Shuster tries to bring it back to the nut job Liz Cheney, but in fact Mr. Pierce is making a bigger -- and far more important -- point.

Keith Oberman should step up and step in to invite Pierce back on this show for a longer segment.

So what if Pierce will not let MSNBC off the hook? Sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. Let's see if Keith Olbermann has a real set of balls -- and any real power to call a little bit of heat down on his own network.

Charles Piere's book, by the way is entitled Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. Nice title. It just made my reading list.
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Ames Pony Shovel

In looking for a source of extra-long rivets to repair a shovel head with, I discovered that an Ames Pony shovel (from AM Leonard) can now be bought from Amazon.com >> see here

This is a very good American-made shovel from a company that has been making tools for longer than we have been a country.

This shovel is not cheap, but it is worth every penny.
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Canada Versus U.S. Health Care

No one pays more for health care than we do here in the U.S., but we are told that if we embrace a public option health care plan (yes, you can still keep the insurance you have now if you are happy with that insurance), then we will be sliding down a "slippery slope" to a Canadian-style health care system.

Hmmmm....

Canada has always seemed like a pretty civilized country to me. They certainly live longer, on average, than the average American.

Let's look at some other numbers:



What else?


  • The U.S. spends more on health care than Canada, both on a per-capita basis and as a percentage of GDP. In 2006, per-capita spending for health care in the U.S. was US $6,714; in Canada, US $3,678. The U.S. spent 15.3% of GDP on health care in that year; Canada spent 10.0%.

  • In 2006, 70% of health care spending in Canada was financed by government, versus 46% in the United States. Total government spending per-capita in the U.S. on health care was 23% higher than Canadian government spending, and U.S. government expenditure on health care was just under 83% of total Canadian spending (public and private).
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Best News Headline Ever

The continuing crisis: >> Swedish lesbians suck sperm banks dry.

Laughing at the Republican Loons

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
http://www.thedailyshow.com/
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day



Yes, we need a laugh, and who is funnier than the totally insane Republican party? Leaderless, devoid of ideas, bereft of facts, caught up in wave after wave of stories about homosexual-glory-hole-bathroom capers, diaper-wearing fetishes, and serial wife-cheating, they are like a living laugh track.

Of course, the left has its loons too, and I have celebrated them as well.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Canine Freak Show Litigation

Here's an update to my earlier post entitled Woman Tries to Stop the Canine Freak Show.

It seem that the owner of the freak show has, well, freaked out, that the 5-legged chihuahua that he hoped to exhibit might, instead, get its deformities fixed and go to a loving home.

The owner of the freak show is now suing for his right to display the 5-legged dog for profit.


Update to the update:
The 5-legged dog now has four legs and is recovering after surgery. The owner of the freak show says: “Sometimes, you just gotta say: ‘OK, I still have nine live, two-headed animals,' and move on.”
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Blue Dogs: A Nice Name for Whore



David Sirota has a nice piece up on why "Blue Dog" Democrats are really nothing more than ugly little political whores of the worst kind.

Finally, someone describes how it really works in Washington! Read the whole thing. This is serious truth:

What's really going on is this: "Blue Dogs" and "conservative Democrats" tend to represent swing states and districts - that is, states and districts that are among the very few that aren't gerrymandered and therefore actually play host to competitive elections. Because of this, their re-election races tend to be especially expensive, which means these politicians have to raise a shit-ton of cash for television ads. How, pray tell, do career politicians raise a shit-ton of cash? They trade their votes and legislative maneuvers for corporate campaign money, most of it coming from special interests in Washington who have little to no grassroots support/connection to the politician's state/district. The special-interest, D.C.-centric nature of these bribes is only enhanced by the fact that many of the "Blue Dog" and "conservative Democratic" districts/states are rather poor, meaning the money-sucking politicians are all but compelled to rely on out-of-state cash for their warchests.

All of this creates a closed circuit that serves the status quo. A "conservative Democratic" politician from a swing state needs to raise millions to finance a competitive campaign. There's not a lot of loose money lying around the district, considering the recession and the destitution of the very kind of district the "conservative Democrat" comes from. So the "conservative Democrat" ends up relying on money from D.C. special interests like, say, health insurers - interests that are largely hated in the "conservative Democrat's" state and have little grassroots connection to the state. That money then buys House and Senate votes that prevent stuff like health care reform that would most benefit the constituents of economically struggling states like the "conservative Democrat's" state.

In the end, because of this kind of transaction, the state remains destitute, and the politician remains in office, keeps raising out-of-state cash, and keeps insisting with a shit-eating grin that it's crazy - just crazy! - for anyone to think their votes could be influenced by millions of dollars.

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