Thursday, January 17, 2019

$150,000 to Shoot a Goat?

Image result for markhor hunting in texas
Texas or Pakistan? 

The headline jumped out: Hunter pays $148k to kill rare 'screw-horned' goat.

Fewer than 6,000 exist in the wild but for $148,000 a US hunter has killed a Himalayan "screw-horned" goat.

Officials in Pakistan's northern-most territory of Gilgit-Baltistan gave paying hunters the opportunity to kill four of the rare goats, also known as Markhors, despite their low numbers, the Independent reported.

As well as the goats, authorities offered the sale of permits for the hunting of a range of rare animals.
Officials defended the practice, saying most of the money raised was returned to the community where the animals were hunted, with the rest given to local government, the Independent reported.

Not said in the article is the fact that the population of this "rare" goat has grown 20 percent, that it is the national animal of Pakistan, and that it is on the logo of Pakistan's version of the secret police (ISI).

Also not said is that this American was not paying $150,000 to shoot a goat, but for the experience of shooting a truly wild goat in the mountains of Pakistan.

You see there are a LOT of Markhors to be shot on game farms in the US.  For example, for $16,500 you can shoot a Markhor in the US, with horns in the 35-38" range, and this price includes bed, breakfast, and three meals, unlimited varmint hunting, guides, transportation of the animal to a taxidermist or meat processor, and a stocked bar. 

And, as the web site notes, "there are no seasonal restrictions on hunting the Markhor in Texas, which makes it a suitable trophy year round." 

Why is that? Simple: this is a ranched animal in a high fence canned hunt facility. These Markhor are being raised as a cash crop and because they have an economic value, their numbers in the US are growing. There's no shortage of places offering Markhor hunting in Texas!

I wrote about the ethics of this kind of thing some years back:

I think most people would agree that shooting a large, rare, exotic or tame animal in a small enclosure is several time zones removed from true hunting.

But what if the animal is less rare -- such as a Russian Boar -- and the enclosure is quite a bit bigger -- a few hundred acres?

Where do we draw the line?

Is it OK to shoot an exotic animal, such as a Fallow or Axis deer, in a very large fenced parcel of ground provided the countryside is more-or-less natural, and the animal actually runs when stalked? Is it OK to shoot it when it is pressed against the fence?

Does it matter if the animals are not exotics, but are native elk, moose, whitetail or mule deer? Is that better or worse?

What if the animals are not fenced in, but are fed every day from an automatic corn-dispensing bait station set on a timer?

Does it matter if the person shooting the animal over such a feeder is hunting for meat or hunting for trophy or sport?

If you decide it's OK to shoot wild whitetail deer on an open farm over a broadcast corn feeder, why is it not OK (as a matter of law) to do the same thing with birds?

If a mechanical caller is OK for fox and coyote, why is it illegal to use it on ducks and elk?

A lot of people will find some of these questions easy to answer, but will pause at others.

The brain dead Vegan and the knuckle-dragging slob-hunter will find all of these questions easy to answer.

So too will the older, thoughtful, skilled hunter who hunts only wild lands and who only fishes wild waters. He knows what he chooses and why.

This last point needs to be stressed.

The types of questions and dilemmas I have posed here are relatively new. Our grandfathers did not have canned hunts and potted bird shoots. This is not part of the American hunting tradition most of us grew up with.

So what has changed?

To some extent, population growth is part of the problem. Though the percentage of hunters may be less than it was in years past, the absolute number is higher than it was 50 years ago due to rapid U.S. population growth. With increasing population density and suburban sprawl has come greater distance to suitably large farms, forests and fields.

More important than suburban sprawl and hunter density, however, is the fact that America has become a land of rapidly rising expectations and a rapidly declining ability to delay gratification.

The American public wants everything it can imagine, and it wants it NOW, and it wants it “super-sized.” We want fast food, fast cars, and instant communication. We want bigger houses, more money and early retirement.

In short, we have become a nation of spoiled, rich and demanding children. The rise of commercial shooting preserves is simply an outgrowth of that phenomenon. Canned hunt operators are, in effect, telling their client base:

"We know you have zero knowledge of field craft or wildlife and that everything has to be easy for you or you will pout. So, just like your Daddy did when you were 6 years old, we are going to rig every game you play so you will always win. And when you do manage to kill some brain-addled, food dependent, hand-tamed creature, we will slap you on the back and say, 'Look what a BIG boy you are!'"

This type of canned shoot is to real hunting what peroxide-blonde hookers are to marriage: a sad charade that debases the individual and jeopardizes the institution.

Just as we have the Playboy channel and Hustler magazine selling the fantasy that every woman is a lesbian-curious nymphomaniac waiting to be unbound, so we have TV hunting shows and magazines selling the idea that every foray into the field should result in a trophy buck, a monster bear, and a bucket-mouth bass. In this sense, "Rack "Em Up" and "Antler King" feed supplements are to the game farm industry what silicone implants are to porn producers.

Just as "sexual service" ads an be found at the back of girly magazines, so too can ads for canned hunts be found at the back of hunting magazines.

It's not an accident that every episode of ESPN's "Hunting the Country" closes with a nod to the outfitter on whose land the “monster buck” was shot.

An “outfitter? What the hell is an an "outfitter"? And how can these people hunt bull elk while trailing a camera crew and talking?

The answer is that you are watching a canned hunt. In the context of television hunting shows, an "outfitter" is a fellow who trains ranch-raised elk to come to a corn-spewing time-released bait station.

"Start feeding them in the spring, and shoot 'em dead in the fall." That’s the business plan, and it’s one that hunting show producers, who need to film a new trophy kill every week, are loathe to criticize.

There are about 1,000 "canned" or potted hunts in the U.S. catering to about 500,000 hunters a year.

That may sound like a lot to folks at the Humane Society, but in fact this represents less than three percent of the 20,000,000 Americans that hunt in this country every year.

For better or worse, you can find an "idiot three percent" in almost every endeavor.

So, to bring it back to these Pakistani goats: Was hunting them wrong? Why?

Here we have a hunter operating within the law, hunting a truly wild animal, who will work hard to find and shoot an animal, whose population is growing in the wild thanks to conservation hunting.

We may resent the rich (always!), but is what he is doing unethical?

Isn't he, in fact, checking all the right boxes?

And yet, there is something distasteful here; the hyper-rich traveling to the edge of the world to shoot a magnificent beast while rolling past millions of raggedy rural poor who are selling their natural birthright to the highest bidder (and who may, or may not, be compensated for their putative loss).

But is what is going on in Texas better or worse?  Or is it just different?

And if we ban hunting Markhor in the wild, and prohibit hunting Markhor on Texas ranches, will the fate of the Markhor be improved, or will it be sealed?  

Chinese horn markets will still pay for poached horn, but who will pay for the protection and breeding of these animals?  The government?  The poor rural taxpayers?  The humane" organizations and green groups now collecting billions in direct mail and spending none of it on habitat protection?

None of these questions are asked or answered in a headline that says: "Hunter pays $148k to kill rare 'screw-horned' goat."  

Isn't that the real crime;  that the press corps is not asking the tough questions or asking us to choose among the competing answers?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Coffee and Provocation

Britain is Ass Deep in Fox
From Wildlife Online: "The Mammal Society and the Animal and Plant Health Authority suggest that the stable (i.e. pre-cubbing) British fox population is around 430,000 animals, while a recent analysis from Brighton University suggests about 150,000 these live in towns and cities.... there are no data to suggest that the 2004 Hunting Act (which made it illegal to hunt foxes on horse-back with dogs) has had any significant impact on national fox numbers." This last bit is not exactly a surprise as the Mammal Society has previously said the British fox population was an biological limits... at 250,000.   So where has there been growth?  In cities and towns, where an abundance of food resources (garbage, bird seed, dog food) has seen a fox population explosion from an estimated 33,000 in the 1990s to 150,000 today. "A citizen science initiative in 2012 found that over 90 per cent of English and Welsh towns that reported no foxes in 2001 were now home to them."

Britain is Neck Deep in Badgers
From Nature: "We estimate there are approximately 485,000 badgers (95% confidence intervals 391,000–581,000) in England and Wales." A previous study estimated the badger population in the UK in the 1980s was approximately 250,000 badgers.

13 Dead Bald Eagles Found in Maryland Field
The likely killer is illegal and banned ant poison set out to kill a raccoon. The same poison is responsible for massive lion kills in Africa. Cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and Painted Dogs are also killed with the poison.

Renewable Energy Overtook Coal in Germany Last Year
Renewable energy sources are now 40%, while coal has dropped to 38%.

Is Coffee Good for You?
A science writer kicked caffeine to reduce anxiety, but a "wellness expert" assured him that coffee is good for you. I suspect it's not the coffee that's good for you -- its the bladder stimulation and resulting activity. So yes, coffee, but not coffee.

Solastalgia (/ˌsɒləˈstældʒə/) is a neologism that describes a form of mental or existential distress caused by environmental change.

Thanks for Saving the Bacon?
Firefighters in England saved 18 piglets from a barn fire. Six months later, the farmer sent them sausages made from the piglets as a thank-you gift. “This is just what we do – we are not an animal sanctuary" explained the farmer. "We give the pigs the best opportunity and the best life they could have for six months. They won’t be kept inside; they are outdoors and fed with organic food which is grown on the farm.”

Your Idiot Great Grandfather Invented IQ Tests
The average IQ rises with each new generation, a phenomenon called the “Flynn Effect.” IQ tests are continuously made harder to keep the average at 100. If today’s children took an IQ test from past decades, they would score significantly higher.

Bambi's Voice Was an American Badass
Donnie Dunagan, who as a child actor was the voice of Bambi, became the Marine’s youngest-ever drill instructor. He served 3 tours in Vietnam, was wounded several times, and earned a bronze star and three purple hearts.

A Matter of Definition?
Selwyn College (Cambridge University) master Roger Mosey had his basset hound “Yo-Yo” reclassified as a “very large cat” so he could keep it on the dog-averse campus.

Frozen for 42,000 Years, and Now Back Alive
Russian worms that were frozen for 42,000 years are alive and kicking.

Where the People Are

Places where population density is greater than 30 people per square mile.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Red Wolf Headline Hunters

The latest news out of Texas is that the DNA of a wolf declared extinct in the wild lives on in a Texas pack.

I am not surprised.

While extinctions are a very serious thing, they are a lot less common than folks would have you believe.

In fact, only a few hundred animals have gone extinct in the last 400 years, and most of these are birds endemic to small Pacific islands decimated by rats and feral cats.

Today, about as many animals are "rediscovered" as BEING NOT EXTINCT as are declared extinct.

Princeton University biologist Elizabeth Heppenheimer says:

Overall, it's incredibly rare to rediscover animals in a region where they were thought to be extinct and it's even more exciting to show that a piece of an endangered genome has been preserved in the wild.

Um. NO.  It's actually very very common to find an animal declared extinct to still be living in the area where it was last seen.  It literally happens several times a years.

For example this morning I read that the world's loneliest frog has found a possible mate.

Glad to hear it.  But all they had to do to find a mate was to spend a few weeks where they had last been seen such a frog in the wild.

This story is so common with "extinct" animals as to be the rule rather than the exception.

Yes, species do go extinct and that is a very serious thing. But let's not overstate things eh?

Bad science is bad science and hyperbole is the WORST THING EVER (See what I did there?).

Folks fanning mass hysteria in this arena are a little too common.

For example, yesterday the nameless faceless person or entity at the @extinctsymbol account on Twitter (YES they have a SYMBOL, hear them!) screamed that the Trump Administration's proposed border wall/fence would mean the EXTINCTION of the Ocelot and the Jaguar.

I replied: "Complete bullshit. The proposed fencing/wall is not near the center of any population center for these cats. Extinction means something. Try to figure out what it means. Amazed at this level of stupidity and ignorance."

And what was the response? I got blocked. Which is fine. I am just amazed that someone who is trying to put themselves out there as an expert on extinction does not actually know what that word means.

If this was a one-off, that would be one thing, but it's not.

For example, over at Bird Life International they have a headline that says:  "Spix’s Macaw heads list of first bird extinctions confirmed this decade."

Um, NO.  There are breeding Spix Macaws in captivity, plans to release them in the wild, and some evidence that a wild population still exists.

This was never a common bird, and a lot of money and science is going into making sure it continues to stay on the planet no matter the merit or evolutionary success of this particular animal.

Do we need more habitat protection for this species and more birds?  YES. But that's being done and that's the REAL STORY.  Fake news on extinction is defeatist (and wrong).

Back to the Red Wolf.  

There is the little matter of whether the Red Wolf is even a separate and distinct species.

There's actually a considerable body of evidence to suggest that the Red Wolf is simply a long-standing semi-stable hybrid between a Grey Wolf and a Coyote.  Wolf-coyote-dog hybrids are increasingly common all over the US.

So was anything actually "discovered" in Texas?  Maybe not.

There's not a huge amount of surprise on that score either.  As I have noted about extinctions, one important question to ask is whether the animal actually ever existed at all. Hybrids are common (especially with birds and fish ) and are genuinely confusing.  If an animal's existence is known by only one or two specimens, and it fits withing certain taxa, some skepticism is warranted.

Does skepticism get you headlines and research grants?  Nope.  But it's still the wise move, and it's more likely to lead you to the truth in the long run.

New Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Dance Video

This new Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance video is going to terrify the GOP.

How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?

This set of four articulated skeletons of brachycephalic dogs was put together and articulated by Alan Turner in Yorkshire, who is a true artist with bone. He sells some work, and does others for museums. 

If TV news folks are looking to do a piece on pedigree dogs prior to Crufts or Westminster, and need good action B-roll with powerful visuals, I bet this gentleman would assemble a piece for you and give you an awesome interview as well.  Show it, don't just say it!

Africa Has an Amazing Future

Chief David Mashupha of Basutoland is at left, with one of his generals in 1900.

I was born 59 years later and not too far away (by Africa standards).

Colin Turbull once observed that there was a loneliness in the heart of the African of his era (1962) in that they knew their past was in leather shields but that their future was in Cray computers. How could they possibly get from one to the other?

In truth they are getting it done.

Today, I hop in a taxicab driven by a Nigerian, and I make a joke that Lagos' “go slow” is better named than our “rush hour.”

He laughs, and is amazed that I know.

I make another joke: We are the same age. We know things. For example when we get a spam email saying a banking official in Ghana has just discovered that someone without any relatives has died and there’s $20 million for us to pick up if we will just send $500 for taxes, we are quite thrilled.... not because we are going to be millionaires, but because we have visible proof that West Africa is running riot with computers! Amazing!

Almost every country in Africa has lower birth rates than Al Gore’s wife, and the infant mortality rate is generally lower than when I was born.

The average person in Rwanda has a much better internet connection than folks in North Dakota or Highland County, Virginia.  Amazing, but true.

Do I think Africa has an amazing future?  I do. The best is yet to come.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Grocery Store Hawk

There are a lot of red shouldered hawks in this area -- I seem to see one or two almost every time I roll a few miles down the road.

Terrorists Say Ignorant Grifters Lack Commitment.

Hoodlums with their hoods.

The Telegraph reports that League Against Cruel Sports labelled 'parasitic organisation' by hunt saboteurs.


A better title:  Terrorists say ignorant grifters lack commitment.

LACS is a basket case, but it's always had one foot in the loony bin.

A short history:

  • The League began in Morden, a suburb of London in 1923. Henry Amos raised a protest against rabbit coursing, he was successful in motivating support and managed to achieve a ban. This encouraged him to organise opposition to other forms of cruel sports and so in along with Ernest Bell, he established the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports. Although many blood sports such as bull, bear and badger baiting and cock fighting had already been outlawed at the timethe laws only applied to domestic and captive animals. With the RSPCA unwilling to take action against hunting, Amos and Bell identified a clear need for an organisation which would campaign against what it classified as cruel sports. (citation)
  • Originally called the League for the Prohibition of Cruel Sports, the partnership between Henry Amos and Ernest Bell did not last long. The organization had 500 members in 1927, and not many more when, in 1932, Bell left the organization due to a difference in tactics. Bell went on to found the National Society for the Abolition of Cruel Sports (NSACS).
  • LACS (now called "The League") struggled through World War II, its already small membership depleted by the war effort. In 1956, journalist Eric Hemmingway -- an avid hunt disrupter -- was elected Chairman, and by 1960 LACS (it now calls itself "the League") had a more radical image and a larger support base. (citation)
  • Hemmingway died in 1963, and was succceded by Raymond Rowley. In 1975, after the anti-coursing bill failed, there was an increasing level of disent with the League as to the course and direction the organization should take. In March of 1977, Richard Course, a former hunt saboteur and a member of the Executive Committee of the League, was charged with receiving documents stolen from the British Field Sports Society. This theft did not slow Course's rise within the League, however, and in 1981 Course was made Executive Director and Mark Davies became Chair. (citation)
  • In 1982, League member Mrs. Janet Simmonds won a High Court case against the League over an £80,000 gift the organization made to the Labour party in 1979. The judge ruled the donation invalid and that it had to be repaid back with interest. (citation)
  • In 1982, The London Times revealed that League Press officer Mike Wilkins was actually the convicted grave desecrater Michael Huskisson who had previously set up the Cambridge group of the Hunt Saboteurs Association. (citation citation ) Huskinson was subsequently fired from his League job after he joined the South East Animal Liberation League in sacking the offices of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) offices at Buxton Brown Farm, Downe, Kent. Huskinson was sentenced to prison for eighteen months for his role in the vandalism and theft of documents (citation).
  • In the late 1980s, League Executive Director Richard Course was appointed to the Burns Inquiry into hunting with dogs and began to spend some field time with the mounted fox hunts as an outgrowth of this work. After a period of time talking with professional wildife managers, scientists, and hunt supporters, he finally concluded that: "The dogs easily outpace the fox within a minute or two and kill it within a second or two. How the fox is located is totally irrelevant to animal welfare considerations," and he began to say to publicly.
  • Course was fired from the League for expressing this and other sentiments divergent from the League's mission. What followed was a period of turmoil and bitter accusations within various factions of the League. James Barington assumed Course's position within the League (still widely known as LACS), but he too eventually quit the organization saying that he too had concluded that an absolute ban on hunting was not in the best interests of animal welfare.
  • Graham Sirl and John Bryant then took over as Joint Chief Officers of the the League, but this partnership did not last long as Bryant quit over the sale of some of the League's wildlife sanctuaries to pay costs associated with political campaigns.
  • On February 18, 2001, The Sunday Telegraph(citation) reported that Andrew Wasley, the League's press officer, had previously been arrested for violent disorder at Hillgrove Farm cat breeding centre, where he was one of the balaclava-wearing saboteurs. Wasley was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for his actions. (citation)
  • In May of 2001 Graham Sirl resigned his position in the League (some say he was fired) and said that he no longer believed a complete ban on hunting was in the best interests of wildlife, and was especially not in the best interests of the Exmoor deer herds which would quickly overpopulate the area if left unmanaged. Sirl says, "I now believe hunting with hounds plays an integral part in the management system of deer on Exmoor and the Quantocks." (citation)
  • LACS went through more leadership turmoil in 2001 and 2002 until, in January of 2003, actress Annette Crosbie was named President. In a January 10, 2003 inteview with David Edwards, Crosbie told The Mirror (citation) : "When I think about it, I think humans are the nastiest species of animal on the planet ...". In the same interview she describes herself as "impatient, intolerant, judgmental, tactless -- I'm not very nice, I'm really not. And if you don't do it my way, by God you'll be sorry." Supporters of Crosbie say her personaality is one of the things that makes her an ideal choice to lead the League.
  • In 2007, former LACS Public Relations director Miles Cooper described LACS are a cult:  "I think 'cult' is a very accurate description [of LACS] ... The anti-hunt movement was never very big, it was based on a small core group of animal rights people — many of whom never understood what they were doing, or why they were there. I became concerned that we were shoehorning evidence to suit our own political agenda and I think we were misleading people ... There were a lot of people, particularly in the memberships of these organisations [LACS and IFAW], who rely solely on PR departments to tell them what hunting is without actually going out, seeing it and talking to people. Inevitably, there is a massive gap in terms of real understanding — of course you can mount the most fantastic, well-organised, glossy campaign on the basis of ignorance and I think that's basically what we did. We were not entirely honest with people and weren't giving them the whole picture."
  • In 2008, LACS relocated from central London to Godalming, Surrey, amid suggestions that the group has money problems and plummeting membership.  Former LACS director-turned hunting supporter Jim Barrington said that in 1995 it had 18,000 members, but then LACS spokesman Barry Hugill said it had declined to just 4,500.
  • In 2015, the president of LACS was fired amid whistleblower accusations that the organization had allowed a bullying, sexist culture at the top of the organisation.
  • In 2016, LACS spending was investigated with The Times of London accusing the organisation of “squandering cash on a failed prosecution, foreign travel, hotel bills and pay rises” at a time when the organization was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.  LACS complained about the press coverage to IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organization but the complaint was NOT upheld.
  • In 2018, another whistleblower was allegedly sacked for revealing that LACS' pension fund was invested in companies involved in animal testing, including tobacco companies and pharmaceutical companies. 
  • In January of 2019 the board of LACS exploded again, and a Charity Commission spokesperson said: “It is clear from our engagement with the League Against Cruel Sports that a serious and damaging dispute is underway between the charity and certain members." The Charity Commission issued "formal regulatory advice" requiring the organization "to strengthen governance and practices in a range of areas, including the conduct of trustees, the ability of the trustees to hold the executive to account appropriately, and around protecting staff and volunteers, and others who come into contact with the charity, from harm."

Uncanny Prediction

From the Red State Rustler two years ago on this day:

Fuck it, let's just do it.

Let's torch healthcare. Let's crush women's rights under a greasy boot heel. Let's thumb our noses at minority issues. Let's take a shit on the poor and a piss on the gays. Let's build that wall. Hell, build it out of pallets of hundred dollar bills for all I care.

Let's fuck the environment - the seas, land and sky. Let's replace science with faith and firmly held beliefs, and let's chase the scientists out of town with pitchforks and torches and snarling dogs.

Let's start a war or two. Let's pat our soldiers on their backs and then shove them straight into the line of fire. For love of country and freedom and God, or something. Let's see your war face, soldier!

Let's stack the Supreme Court with gunslinging Christian zealots. Let's trample rights and codify wrongs. We hold these truths. We grab these truths by the pussy. Let's close our eyes and imagine stroking off the founding fathers, all in a line, while Reagan watches.

Let's get corrupt as fuck. Let's make deals under the table with shady foreign agents. Let's start spelling shit with a lot of backward "R"s. Let's leave America's back door unlocked and a warm pot of borscht on the stove. Let's wake up in the dead of night to the sensation of Putin's throbbing member pressing against the small of our back, and let's like it.

Let's undermine the press. Let's put fact and fiction in a blender and spin them around until they turn into warm gray goo. Lies! It's all lies!

Let's put assholes and in-laws and poker buddies and snakeheaded businessmen and steely-eyed warhawks in charge of all the cogs that keep our government moving, and then let's grind this bitch to a halt.

Let's get on with it, Republican leaders, right now. You hold the reigns to this bucking bronco. You have the mandate. So crank this shitshow to eleven. Unleash two years of absolute carnage. Deregulate and destabilize and destroy. Show us the true face of unchecked greed. Burn this motherfucker to the ground. Because apparently that's what it's going to take for half of America to finally wake the fuck up.

I beg you, please, wake the beast.

Just get on with it.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Datura Pods in the Snow

Sight Hound and Rabbit

Articulated by Alan Turner in Yorkshire, who is quite obviously a terrific bone mechanic and osteo-artist.

Vulture and Hawk

Turkey Vulture with Red-tail Hawk in background (and below).

I could not get them both in focus at the same time, and the camera wanted to focus on the branches in front of the hawk.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Well-fed Vultures

These vultures are likely engorged on deer-season spoils. At top is a Black Vulture, at bottom a Turkey Vulture.

Though vultures look like raptors, they are more closely related to the Ibis or chicken, and their feet are so weak that they can pick up nothing.

While they are terrific at soaring, they are not terrific muscle-powered fliers.

Red Shouldered Hawk Today

This female Red-shouldered  Hawk tried to nail a mouse from the fence post. I'm not sure if she got it, but after she seemed to mantle over it for a few seconds, she flew up to a light a hundred yards on, where I caught her again.

Coffee and Provocation

Good Doggie
South Africa sniffer dog intercepts 256 pounds of rhino horn.

The Old, the Gullible, and the Ignorant
Age, not politics, is biggest predictor of who shares fake news on Facebook. People 65 years of age and over are seven times more likely to share fake news than those aged 18-29.

The Good Stuff Has Caffeine
Commercially sold fake urine, used to fool doctors and drug tests at work, can be exposed as fake by the absence of caffeine, nicotine, and other common chemicals found in food and over the counter medications.

AirPods as Listening Devices
Leave your iPhone in a room and listen to what people say while you are away (requires iOS 12 or later).

The Three Bears
Chris Wemmer is a deeply knowledgeable wildlife man who used to be director of the Smithsonian National Zoo's Conservation Biology Institute. He blogs as "Camera Trap Codger," and his blog is in my permanent feed. See his recent "Three Bears" post for a little fun.

Killer Tits
Great tits are killing birds and eating their brains.

Cannibal Hares
Hares have been known to eat meat (as do squirrels, chipmunks, and deer) as far back as 1921, but this is the first time a meat-eating hare has been caught on camera.

Not Getting Sleepy
A man who was trying to hypnotize an elephant was, instead, trampled to death.

Africa as Europe in the 1950s
In 1800 every 2nd or 3rd child died before reaching their 5th birthday. This was true everywhere. By 2015 this number had fallen to less than 1-in-20 globally. No country is an exception to this progress, and infant mortality rates in Africa are now lower than they were in Europe in the 1950s.

Sauce for the Goose
I'm looking forwards to President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez using an “emergency” declaration to ban assault weapons, nationalize prescription drug companies, mandate Medicare for All, impose a Green New Deal, and force white supremacists to wear ankle monitors the rest of their lives.

American Fox Hunting History

Fox hunting hounds and horses crossing at White’s Ferry on the Potomac just a little ways down the road from where I live. No date, but very early 20th Century is my guess. White’s Ferry crosses the Potomac between Leesburg, Virginia, and Poolesville, Maryland.

In Virginia, the state dog is the foxhound. The first mounted fox hunt in America, however, was in Maryland.

Poor Message Placement

Friday, January 11, 2019

Rodent Evolution Is Obvious

Guinea pig skull on top of capybara skull. A squirrel, a groundhog, and a beaver would fit between them without much morphological difference, other than size.

Water rodents, like beaver, have orange teeth due to increased iron in their enamel.

A Door Knob I Need

I would love a door knob with a terrier coming out of the hole on one side, and the tail going into the hole on the other (back) knob. Cast brass would sell!

The Cell Phone at the Circus

I love the Internet.

Love is actually too weak a word. There is no word that describes what I feel about the Internet. It never sleeps, and the sum total of human knowledge is there in the form of text, pictures, video, and music.

In all likelihood, you, the reader of this blog, and I have never met, and we may not even be in the same country, but we can send each other pictures, video, or a 500-page manuscript, and do it without consuming paper, printing, postage, time, or money.

Children with physical disabilities and old people who are infirm can reach out across time and space to communicate on a level playing field.

Gay or straight, young or old, with or without speech impediment, vegan or carnivore, knitter or welder, gardener or theoretical nuclear physicist, there is a place for you on the Internet where you can learn and share ideas.

And the Google! 

How can you sleep at night when any question you could possibly imagine can be answered in three of four clicks? What were George Washington's false teeth made out of? How is schist different from granite? How old is Van Morrison? What is the population of  Botswana, and what is it's history?

My cell phone has on it every bit of recorded music ever made, along with the lyrics to every pop song I have ever heard, every book ever written, and every movie ever screened.

My cell phone is the most powerful publishing platform in the world, and the cheapest and easiest form of communication in every country.  It is a global store that sells everything under the sun, and does foreign currency transactions faster than you can pay for a coffee.

How can anything compete with that? 

It can't. 

That's why record stores have disappeared, and so too has Blockbuster.

Bookstores are all but gone. Neighborhood libraries still exist, but they are having to re-purpose themselves as "computer centers" in order to justify their existence.

What about zoos and circuses? 

They too are struggling to stay open, or are fading out altogether.

It used to be you had to go to a zoo or a circus to see a tiger or an elephant. Now we have YouTube, BBC Animals, and National Geographic TV.

Who wants to see a bored elephant in a concrete cage, or a deformed Killer Whale in a swimming pool, when you can see massive numbers of the same animals, in the wild, facing off against their enemies, mating and feeding, without ever getting out of your La-Z-Boy?

And so it does not come as a complete surprise to learn that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is finally folding up its tent for good.

Some will tell you it's because of the "animal rights" folks, but I would note that the same folks telling you this are posting this idea from their cell phone.

Most of these same people have not been to a circus themselves in the last 20 years, and it's not because they are card-carrying members of the "Animal Rights" movement.

What is the Animal Rights movement?  Where are they? Have you ever actually seen a PETA protest in the wild?

I haven't, not once, and I live in the state where they are headquartered, and I work in the city where all U.S. federal legislation is made.

Let's us observe reality.  We have hamburger and chicken establishments on every corner, in every town and city, and everyone we know wears leather shoes and holds their pants up with a leather belt, and you have never seen a PETA protest in the flesh.

We have more pets than ever before, and we have no qualms about feeding them chicken, beef, beaver, deer, lamb, pork, fish, and turkey.

No one from PETA has every picketed your local grocery or pet store.

There are no animals rights activists in the fields or forests where you hunt or walk your dogs.

The simple truth is that the "Animal Rights" movement is mostly fiction.  It doesn't exist in the real world beyond 10 million pieces of direct mail and a lot of carefully cut and curated videos to help support those same pieces of direct mail.

So what's really going on behind the demise of Ringling Brothers? Simple:  technology.

The very same technology that made the Big Top bloom like a hot house rose 125 years ago, has been working hard to kill it ever since.

Here's the story:  19th and 20th Century trains and roads made it possible for circuses to travel from one end of the continent to another in order to entertain small-town people who suddenly had a little disposable cash in their pocket.

But entertainment competition for the circus arrived very quickly in the form of radio, movies, and television.

At the same time, small town economies began to collapse as capital spooled up to create ever-larger factories designed to make and ship more and more goods farther and farther away.

Circuses, which once counted on stopping at at least two dozen small towns between the big cities, found the road no longer paid.  When local oil refineries, assembly plants, stock yards, and furniture factories folded, small town populations collapsed and the thin gloss of prosperity drifted away.

Through it all, more and more televisions and radios were sold, and more and more movie houses were built.

One factor amplified the other.

The ready availability of high-quality, low-cost, no-skill instant gratification met rapid urbanization, and a lot of things started to reduce their cross section in the national psyche, from contract bridge to bowling, and from hunting and fishing to dog shows.

This story is not deeply hidden.  

In fact, it's the story of your life, as well as that of your parents and grandparents.

So why do we not hear about it more?  

Simple: it's easier to focus on the bogyman of "animal rights" than it is to look at the things you cannot change, such as the rise of technology, or the things you will not change, such as the breeding of defective, deformed and dysfunctional dogs in a closed registry, or the showing of dogs in a system where professional handlers have an unfair advantage.

And so the Animal Rights movement is empowered as a causal agent, even when it has little to do with the collapse of the thing at hand.

"They" must have killed the circus, we are told.  You know -- "those people" that we have never actually seen in the flesh.  "They" killed off the circus and "they" are going to kill off pedigree dogs too.

To which I can only say.... Right.  Just like they killed off bowling and contract bridge. Those bastards!

Los Angeles’s GDP Fitted Into Africa

All of Africa has only three times Los Angeles' GDP.

So Close

President Terrorist

World War I Surplus Camping Gear

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Jack London's Terriers

Jack London and wife, with Possum, just 6 days before Jack's death in 1916.

He was a socialist racist, a meat-eating vegetarian, and a moralizing alcoholic who wrote two books about terriers that helped jump start the animal-rights movement.

Jack London and his wife, Charmian, acquired a Jack Russell terrier named "Possum" in Baltimore in 1912.

Later London wrote a book entitled Jerry of the Islands, about a terrier born on one of the Solomon Islands, who is first owned by a man called "Skipper" who is killed by natives. The dog falls into the hands of a head-hunting chief in a cannibal village. Sheer chance saves Jerry from the cooking-pot and he escapes into the wilds, where he enjoys a semi-feral life until rescued by the yacht Ariel, and its crew, Harley and Villa Kennan, who seem as gods.

To say this book does not travel well in the 21st Century does not begin to start the conversation. It is a rather unvarnished paean to racism.

Later, in 1915, London wrote another book: "Michael, Brother of Jerry". From the forward to that book comes this missive about how Jack London saw the circus and show-dog trainers of his day:

Very early in my life, possibly because of the insatiable curiosity that was born in me, I came to dislike the performances of trained animals. It was my curiosity that spoiled for me this form of amusement, for I was led to seek behind the performance in order to learn how the performance was achieved. And what I found behind the brave show and glitter of performance was not nice. It was a body of cruelty so horrible that I am confident no normal person exists who, once aware of it, could ever enjoy looking on at any trained-animal turn.

...I have indeed lived life in a very rough school and have seen more than the average man's share of inhumanity and cruelty, from the forecastle and the prison, the slum and the desert, the execution-chamber and the lazar-house, to the battlefield and the military hospital. I have seen horrible deaths and mutilations. I have seen imbeciles hanged, because, being imbeciles, they did not possess the hire of lawyers. I have seen the hearts and stamina of strong men broken, and I have seen other men, by ill-treatment, driven to permanent and howling madness. I have witnessed the deaths of old and young, and even infants, from sheer starvation. I have seen men and women beaten by whips and clubs and fists, and I have seen the rhinoceros-hide whips laid around the naked torsos of black boys so heartily that each stroke stripped away the skin in full circle. And yet, let me add finally, never have I been so appalled and shocked by the world's cruelty as have I been appalled and shocked in the midst of happy, laughing, and applauding audiences when trained-animal turns were being performed on the stage.

...Cruelty, as a fine art, has attained its perfect flower in the trained-animal world.

Right. I have to say that Jack London is not necessarily an honest voice or an expert in these matters.

He was, it should be said, a dilettante who stuck his beak into a lot of areas, without fully understanding them.

He bought a boat when he did not know how to sail, and was ripped off for his ignorance before wrecking the craft entirely.

He was a socialist who looked down his nose at people of color, and who embraced eugenics and class systems.

He was a sometime militant vegetarian who would revert to eating meat.

Nonetheless, his books sold, and his attacks on circuses found great influence following the publication of Michael, Brother of Jerry after London's death from alcoholism.

In the next 15 years, "Jack London Clubs," dedicated to animal rights, were started all over the U.S. These clubs achieved an international membership of nearly one million (almost all school children who signed a piece of paper but never donated or acted again) before the Second World War and, in 1925, they were said to be responsible for Ringling-Bothers Barnum & Bailey Circus removing all animal acts for the next four years.

In fact, this story is not true, and reality is a bit more complex.

Ringing Brothers never stopped having animal acts, as a simple check of circus posters for the period in question will reveal. There were lions, tigers, and elephant acts, to say nothing of horses, dogs, and many other kinds of other animals.

This is not to say the Ringling operation was entirely healthy.  The circus was undergoing a major change in management, and was a bit on the ropes due to the rise of animal acts at the Hagenbeck–Wallace Circus, which featured the great lion-tamer Clyde Beatty.

During the period in question, Ringling moved its base of operations from Wisconsin to Florida (where it remains to this day), rebuilt its capital fund, and bought out the Hagenbeck–Wallace Circus in part to transfer over Clyde Beatty's big cat acts to Ringling.

Not only did Ringling Brothers not abandon animal acts -- they doubled down on them!