Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Allah Works in Mysterious Ways

I always wondered if this ever happened. Now I know.

Birds Using Tools to Hunt

A Green Heron does a little bait fishing. An amazing bird. If no bread is around, they will us insects. Another example is below.

In summer, this bird is found everywhere in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River, and it winters in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America.


You Think You Went to a Tough School?

This is a tough school!

The GOP Health Care Plan

Congressman Alan Grayson puts a point on it. Nice!

Galton's Dog Whistle

Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's cousin, invented the inadudible dog whistle.

The original whistle was made of a brass tube with an internal diameter of approximately 2 millimetres. By moving a small plunger, the size of the resonanting cavity in the whistle could be changed, enabling the pitch of the whistle to be altered from audible up into the ultrasonic range, which humans cannot hear but which dogs can. Galton was able to determine that the normal upper limit of human hearing was about 18kHz.

Galton, of course, also invented the field of eugenics, fingerprint indentification, and mathematical correlation and regression.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't Change a Thing!


Nice Little Box Turtle Book for Free

A red eye and a concave plastron signal this is a male.

Chris Wemmer (aka Camera Trap Codger) was down this way to see his daughter, and we went out on Sunday to do a little digging on the dogs, and never mind the 2 inches of rain the night before.

The dogs found soon enough, but we spent about 3 and half hours trying to pound through solid rock to get at what they found.

In the end, we were vanquished (sometimes the critter wins one), but on the upside, on the way home we rescued not one, but TWO box turtles from the road.

For those interested in teaching kids about box turtles, check out this nice little PDF of a book (FREE!) for information and lesson plans. Excellent stuff and a special shout out to Valerie Hayes for recommending it.

By the way, Chris Wemmer is a really interesting person. He was director, for 30 years or so, of the U.S. National Zoo's Conservation and Research Centre at Front Royal, Virginia.

During Chris's tenure, the Research Center's staff grew from 12 to over 100, and the facility became a major venue for graduate student studies, endangered species research, and international training.

It is, in fact, a real jewel in the crown of the U.S. conservation movement, and an example of the very best kind of work done by zoos today.


A Field Guide to Posthole Diggers

In the U.S. our digs tend to be shallow -- in the 2-3 foot range is very normal. Many settes are also located in the tight confines of crowded hedgerows where rocks and roots may make digging with a shovel difficult. As a consequence, many folks find a posthole digger a useful tool to quickly break into a den pipe -- a feat that is speeded up even further if it is possible to take the first foot or two of soil off with a shovel.

Used in a conventional fashion, the hole made by a posthole digger is too small to give the dog enough room to enter properly. In order to get a hole big enough to enter a dog or pull quarry, you need to bore several over-lapping holes with the posthole digger.

A traditional posthole digger can be found in most good hardware stores and will cost $40 to $60. You want a "Hercules-style " posthole digger that has big and deep jaws, not the smaller and lighter "Atlas" type which is close to useless. Protruding bolt threads should be epoxied so that the nuts cannot come loose and rattle off while working in the field.

To read an illustrated Field Guide to Posthole Diggers >> click here.


Mule vs Cougar?

The story as given here turns out to be a lie:

A couple living in Montana were outside with a mule and 2 dogs. He with a gun (he is a hunter), she with a camera. A cougar that was nearby decided that he would have a dog for dinner.

The hunter saw the animal so he wanted to shoot in the air to scare the beast but did not even have time to do that -- the cougar was already approaching a dog. Here is the incredible part of the story: the mule snatched the cougar up by the tail and started whirling him around banging its head on the ground repeatedly. Then the mule dropped it on the ground, stomped on it and held it by the throat. The mule got down on his knees and began to bite the creature a dozen times. The poor animal could not do anything ...

The hunter did not even need to shoot and the woman was able to take these 4 exceptional pictures.
It seems the lion was already dead when the mule tossed it around. The real story is supposed to be this one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Death by Deer :: The Map of Impact

Click on map to make bigger.

What's the chance your car will slam into a deer this year?

Click on the map, above, to see the likelihood of any one vehicle in your state colliding with a deer over the next 12 months.

The average in the U.S. is 1 in 208. In West Virginia, however, it's one in 39!

For more information from State Farm, click here.

Hawaii Five-O Gets a Big Zero for Dog Tickets

From Hawaii comes this story of police with too much time on their hands:

Police Cite Dog Walkers Along Kapiolani Park

Dan Falardeau walks his dog, Joey, seven days a week. On Friday, two police officers stopped Falardeau.

"The officers told me that I was being ticketed for having my dog in a city park, and I tried to explain to them that I am on the sidewalk because I walk through here every single day, and couldn't I get a warning and they said, 'This was on the order of the mayor's office,'" Falardeau said.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann's office said there was no directive from it to ticket dog owners.

Waikiki police said they are ticketing because of many complaints about dogs in Kapiolani Park. They said they warned some dog owners on Thursday.

The pathway where Falardeau was walking his dog is actually part of Kapiolani Park and different from a regular sidewalk. There are signs warning no animals allowed. Police ticketed three other women walking their dogs on leashes on the same sidewalk along the park Friday.

The citation is for a criminal offense, a petty misdemeanor prohibiting animals in parks. It requires a court appearance.

"I keep him on a leash. I pick up his poop. He's got a license and I don't quite understand this and now he's a criminal," Falardeau said.

Regular beachgoer Patrice Scott said she was surprised by the crackdown on leashed dogs.

"I just think it is crazy. How could you get a ticket for walking your dog? I don't understand," she said. "Seems like there are a lot of better things to be writing people up for like speeding."

Other dog walkers KITV spoke with called the ticketing "ridiculous.

Fresh Food Porn With Camera Phone

A little fresh food porn taken at Whole Foods with my camera phone.

Protecting Box Turtle Memories

A repost from July 2005

Very rarely the dogs and I will come across a box turtle
as we hunt along hedgerow and field.

When I was a kid, box turtles were fairly common -- we would find them under the hedges and under the grape arbor at my grandparents place in Kansas -- or in the woods along the river closer to home here in Virginia.

Now they are very rare.

The decline of box turtles is largely due to the tremendous rise of roads in the U.S., and the increasing habitat fragmentation these roads have produced.

A turtle's hard shell can withstand examination by a dog, but not the crushing load of a car.

Kids collect a lot of turtles as well. Invariably these animals die in salmonella-soaked aquariums, or else they escape from the confines of a backyard and are run over by a car.

Box turtles live longer than any other wild species in the United States -- 100 years or more is certainly in the cards.

The box turtle is not like the sea turtle or the snapping turtle -- this is an animal that lays only four or five eggs a year, and these eggs -- and whatever young actually hatch out -- must survive the onslaught of raccoon and possums, fox and dogs, disease and the ever-present gauntlet of cars and kids.

Turtles have a high degree of fidelity to relatively small areas, living out their long lives in a few dozen acres of woods. This little patch of woods will supply the box turtle with all the worms, insects, leaves, berries, mushrooms and slugs it needs to survive.

The trouble is that very few other turtle-ranges may overlap this little patch of woods. The result is that if even a single male or female box turtle is removed from a parcel of woods, that loss may effectively kill off all reproductive capacity of other turtles in the area.

Unfortunately, transporting a turtle to a new patch of woods generally dooms it. Turtles may not be brilliant animals, but they are dogged, and if moved to a new patch of woods they will spend years wandering about fruitlessly looking for their ancestral homes. The long-distance excursions these animals invariably take result in turtles crossing roads and being killed by oncoming traffic.

The bottom line: if you know of a child that has removed a box turtle from forest or farm, find out exactly where the turtle was collected, and release it back to the wild in the same location.

The precipitous decline of box turtles in the United States was finally recognized in the early 1990s, and in 1995 all U.S box turtles were formally protected from collection and trade under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

CITES does not save turtles from cars or kids, however -- only education can do that. If you have kids or have access to a classroom of kids, please pass on the fact that box turtles are an endangered species and should NEVER be collected from the wild or transported out of the woods of their birth.

The box turtle is a tough animal, but a fragile species. For those of us who grew up playing in the woods, it is an icon of our youth -- a great treasure found rummaging through the leaves.

Like so much of what we treasure about this great country, however, it is on the verge of being destroyed by human population growth and the development that such population growth invariably engenders.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Graveyard Groundhogs

I have stumbled on rural graveyards with the dogs, but I never dig anywhere near them for obvious reasons.


Labrador with Terrier-Sized Tumor

Surgeons at Boston's Angell Animal Medical Center removed a 21-pound tumor from a 13-year-old Labrador retriever, the largest tumor veterinarians there had ever seen. A picture of tumor is show, above. The dog has been doing well post-surgery. The complete story is here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bruce Springsteen :: Thunder Road

Bruce Springsteen and Melissa Etheridge. Bruce just turned 60. Long may he run. And long may she run too!.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Barack Obama Salutes Hunting and Fishing

Barack Obama fishing the East Gallatin in Montana.

Barack Obama isssued a proclamation today, that Saturday, September 26, will be National Hunting and Fishing Day.

I will be celebrating it one day late, hopefully in the field with Camera Trap Codger who is down this way to visit his relations.

So what does the Proclamation say? Here goes:




From atop Pikes Peak to the shores of the James River, Americans celebrate the great abundance and utility of our natural resources. Since our Nation's founding, hunters and anglers have cherished these unparalleled natural gifts and marveled at their untamed beauty. National Hunting and Fishing Day recognizes the contributions of millions of Americans who continue to engage in these ageless pursuits.

Following in the centuries-old footsteps of the pioneers who walked before them, hunters and anglers have played a key role in the conservation and restoration of numerous species and their natural habitats. They not only understand their pivotal role as stewards of the land, but also seek to pass on this honored tradition to future generations.

As our citizens continue to enjoy our Nation's natural resources, we must remember that this privilege brings great responsibility. Not long ago, hunting threatened the extinction of the American Bison, an enduring symbol of the American West. Today, their population has recovered because of the cooperative efforts of conservationists and hunters. Many species, however, still require our protection. We can no longer look to our wilderness, as some once did, as land full of unlimited bounty and surplus. Recognizing the need for conservation, our hunters and anglers have worked hard to manage local ecosystems where wildlife remain, as well as to protect those areas where they are slowly re-establishing viable populations.

Our national character, always evolving, finds its foundation in those timeless American ideals of freedom, fairness, and self-sustainability. Today's hunters and anglers bring this spirit to life in the forests and streams they visit. If not for America's great hunters and anglers, like President Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, our Nation would not enjoy sound game management; a system of ethical, science-based game laws; and an extensive public lands estate on which to pursue the sports. On National Hunting and Fishing Day, we celebrate their contributions to our natural environment and our national heritage.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 26, 2009, as National Hunting and Fishing Day. I call upon the people of the United States to recognize this day with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


Drill here? Drill now? How about we fish trout instead?

Terrierman in Dutch!

Various bits from the blog or web site have been translated into other languages before, but I think this is the first time we've been translated into Dutch. Check it out!

The translation is by A. Santing of the Ravenheights kennel in the Netherlands, and is a translation of >> The Real Jack Russell Terrier: A Complete History


Holland: Shaped by Population Growth

With 400 inhabitants per square mile, the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe.

Clearly, in a country so densely populated, land is at a premium -- and it has been at a premium for a very long time.

The Roman historian Pliny noted that the people living in what is now Holland were "a miserable people living at the highest known level of the tides. They have built their huts and live like sailors when their land is covered-over, and like the shipwrecked when the tides have gone out."

In short, even with a very small population, life in the Netherlands was pretty grim 2000 years ago.

As the population of Holland grew, the need for land -- already in short supply -- increased. The Romans were the first to set about reclaiming arable land, and they did so by cutting canals and draining swamps. In the absence of family planning, however, the population of Holland continued to slowly grow, and by 1000 AD it had risen to well over 1 million and more aggressive land reclamation efforts were needed.

Since Roman times, increasing numbers of people in Holland had been building earthen berms around their lands in order to help keep water out and speed the drying of otherwise marshy land.

As increasing numbers of berms and dikes began to be linked to each other, the integrity of regional dike systems grew dependent upon each other. A "social contract" was needed, and it was soon created with neighboring farmers getting together to formally acknowledge their community dike-maintenance obligations.

By the 12th Century every Dutch farmer was required to maintain his portion of a dike, and this obligation was enforced by elected "water guardians" headed by a "dike reeve" or Dike Lord who could levy fines and subject miscreants to physical branding. In extreme cases, the "Law of the Spade" was evoked, in which dike-maintenance scofflaws were required to put their spade in the ground and leave their own lands forever. Neighbors of the offending farmer would then appoint someone else to take over the land and maintain the dike that the previous owner had so studiously ignored.

In short, the end result of a land shortage in the Netherlands was the OPPOSITE of what you might expect in a resource-scarcity situation. Instead of a war over farm land, the shortage of terra firma forged a culture in which working together towards a common good was not only expected, it was required.

In the absence of family planning, of course, the population of Holland continued to grow.

By 1300, it had risen to about 2.2 million people and the demand for land was as high as ever.

Around 1400 AD the first windmills showed up in Holland -- a new energy source that was quickly put to use pumping marshy land dry.

Population growth did not stop, of course.

The population that was 2.2 million in 1300 rose to 3.2 million by 1824 and then took off like a rocket as knowledge of basic hygiene resulted in a rapid decline in childhood mortality.

Holland's population rose to 4.2 million by 1855, 5.2 million by 1872, 6.2 million by 1884, 7.2 million by 1894, 8.2 million by 1904, and 9.2 million by 1915.

In 1921 the population of the Netherlands was 10.2 million and it continued to grow by leaps and bounds, hitting 11.2 million by 1929, 12.2 million by 1935, 13.2 million by 1942, 14.2 million by 1951, 15.2 million by 1963, 16.2 million by 1975, and 17.2 million by 1987.

Of course, as Holland's population continued to grow, so too did its need for land. Colossal dikes, canals, barrages, dams, pumping mechanisms, storm surge barriers and locks were constructed to reclaim more and more land from inland lakes, bays and coastal flats. As these marshy areas were "put under the plow," millions of acres of bird habitat were lost.

Today, more than half of Holland is composed of land wrestled from the sea, and more than three-quarters of its population lives on land that was once underwater at least part of the year.

Holland's reclamation of farm land has been terribly expensive, of course, but it has (surprisingly) not been so expensive that it has harmed Holland's economic development. As Johan Van Vern, the "father" of Holland's enormous post-WWII Delta Plan, has noted,

"The whole of the Delta Works can be had for one year's army budget, a mere trifle in the state economy of centuries."

In fact, Holland's GNI is not only higher than average for Europe, it is also higher than average for Western Europe and Northern Europe.

Nor has Holland's Delta Plan ever failed to hold back the sea. While the history of Netherlands is littered with stories of flood and ruin caused by dike failure, the history of the last 40 years is quite different thanks to modern engineering methods (concrete is a good thing) and much higher construction standards.

Today Holland's dikes are required to be built to a "Delta Safe" standard capable of withstanding a storm of a magnitude that might occur only once in 10,000 years. The result of such massive construction is that no one under age 40 in Holland has ever seen a dike breached by the sea.

The best news, of course, is that Holland has addressed its core underlying problem: rapid population growth.

Thanks to modern contraception, the Netherlands now has a total fertility rate (TFR) of just 1.7, and its population is expected to grow by less than a million people over the next 50 years (most of it due to demographic momentum).

Another bit of good news, is that with Holland's dramatic slowing of population growth, the government has stopped building new dikes and has made the rather momentous decision to return some of its reclaimed land back to the sea.

The current plan is for one tenth of all Dutch farmland to eventually be returned to marsh, wetland, or flood plain forest.

An area of 600,000 acres of dry land is already in the process of being returning to seasonal or permanent flooding, and wild birds such as cormorants, spoonbills and marsh harriers are beginning to return to Holland after being driven from the land by drainage during the last Century.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Charles (Darwin) In Charge

They have professional gun safety classes for a reason. From St. Louis:

Imperial man shoots himself in the head while teaching firearms safety

KSDK -- An Imperial man is dead after accidentally shooting himself in the head while teaching his girlfriend firearms safety.

Sheriff Glenn Boyer said that on Friday, deputies responded to 4307 Rock Valley Court in Imperial for a shooting. Investigators found 40-year-old James Looney with a gunshot wound to the head.

According to witnesses, Looney was demonstrating how to use the different safety mechanisms on several guns to his girlfriend. The witnesses said Looney would put the guns to his head, and before pulling the trigger, would ask her if she thought the gun would go off. With the first two guns, the safety mechanisms worked. The third gun fired.

Looney was transported to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead the next morning.

According to witnesses, Looney was going to take his girlfriend to the shooting range the next day, but insisted on the lesson on firearm safety the day before.

Deputies believe alcohol was involved.

His name was Looney? Of course it was ...

Remember: The tree of life is self-pruning. Try not to be part of the dead wood.

Staying away from booze and drugs really helps in that regard.

A word to the wise is sufficient. .


Animals With Casts

Animals With Casts. Just what it says. Bad things happen, and sometimes good people show up.

Salvador Dali Walks His Anteater


Monday, September 21, 2009

Gale Norton :: Guilty of Payola Politics?

Did Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior in the Bush Administration, sell out the environment for a cushy job with Big Oil?

That's what it looks like, and the Justice Department is investigating.

Norton works right now as an in-house lawyer in Denver for Royal Dutch Shell. In 2006, while she was still in office, her department granted three tracts in Colorado to a Shell subsidiary for shale exploration.

Also while in office, she had conversations with Royal Dutch Shell about future employment -- a clear ethical lapse.

Of course, nothing about Gale Norton was ever quite square.

This is a woman who used to be employed as a lobbyist for the National Lead Company.

A lead company?

Who suits up to work as a lawyer for a company than manufactures poison?

And what kind of Administration puts that kind of person in charge of our trout streams, our National Parks, our National Forests, and our wildlife?

Consider Norton's list of "accomplishments" as head of the Department of Interior:

  • Norton saluted the gutting of the roadless forest protection initiative.

  • Norton announced that the Interior Department was suspending any new designations of critical habitat for endangered and threatened species.

  • Norton fast-tracked oil leases in Alaska and Wyoming and mining claims in Idaho and Nevada.

  • Norton ordered the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to speed up new oil and gas leases in roadless areas of the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, home to more than 20 endangered species, including the condor and steelhead trout.

  • Norton opened up BLM lands to ATVs and Yellowstone National Park to more snowmobile traffic.

  • Norton was a fierce advocate for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Norton moved to rescind critical habitat designations and protections for 19 species of salmon and steelhead in California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, opening up more than 150 different watersheds for timber sales, construction and water diversion projects.

Gale Norton was not just toxic to the enironment -- she also seems to have surrounded herself with people who were "ethically challenged."

So am I surprised that Gale Norton is now under investigation for corruption by the U.S. Department of Justice?

Am I surprised that she sold out your public lands for her personal benefit?

Am I surprised to learn she is working for Big Oil?

No, no, and no. I would expect nothing less from Gale Norton.

Roadkill Blues

Roadkill is a 20th Century phenomenon, which is to say that we did not have it in the 19th Century when the roads were populated by horses and carriages.

Oh sure, we had some train kills -- deer and moose and cows and buffalo, but that's trackkill, not roadkill. And, of course, some horses died on the road from exhaustion or being shot, but they too were not roadkill as we define it here -- animals dying from vehicle impact on the road.

In fact, roadkill is probably the wrong term, even if it is the one we use. Carkill is what this really is; the road, after all, is simply a passive observer.

The problem with the term "carkill," is that it puts us in the picture. Roadkill, however, is a term that conveniently assigns millions of drive-by deaths to an inanimate object. It is a comforting term that obsolves us of guilt.

Today, the Mercury Cougar (Automobilus detroitus) does some of the pruning work once done by the wolf (Canus lupus). Which is not to say Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Volvo, Mack Truck, and all the rest are not doing their part as well. They are.

Roadkill is not a small biological phenomenon, it is a big one. In my small state of Virginia, there are over 35,000 deer-car impacts a year. In Michigan, deer impacts are so pervasive (over 55,000 a year), that they use deer roadkill data to determine the deer population in the woods. In Pennsylvania, another 40,000 deer a year fall under the wheel. What's the national tally? Who know? The number 350,000 is tossed around, but that seems low. That said, not all states have as many deer as Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan, or as many drivers on dark or twising roads. So who knows? Whatever the number, it's clear that it is a lot.

Though I have no doubt that Darwinian forces are slowly playing out between animals and cars, the time-frame is still far too short. As a result, as brilliant as a squirrel is at figuring how to get to, and jimmy open, a bird feeder, it is still completely flummoxed by squealing tires and 4-cylinders. As a result, squirrels die in droves from vehicle impacts -- perhaps 40 million a year according to one back-of-the-napkin bean counter.

A few more sobering roadkills numbers, and some descriptive reasons as to why some animals are more likely to die on our highways than others:

  • Dogs: 1.2 million dogs are killed on U.S. roads every year. Most of these dogs are killed in the daylight while chasing a ball, child, cat, or squirrel. Fences and leashes keep dog alive. No fence and no leash, and the result is predictable.

  • Cats: Cars kill about 5.4 million cats per year -- more cats than are killed in all U.S. animal shelters. Most cats are hit by cars at night.

  • Snakes: Snakes are cold-blooded and will warm themselves on asphalt, especially on poorly-traveled rural roads. Because snakes are small and easily obliterated by tires, there are no good numbers, but they are huge.

  • Opossums: Opossums feast on roadkill, a habit that results in about 19 million opossums a year getting squashed. Possums are naturally slow, come out at night, and will often freeze in the headlights of a car.

  • Skunks: When threatened, a skunk's natural defense is to turn its back and spray -- a technique that does not work too well with cars. Most skunks are hit at night.

  • Groundhogs: An estimated 5 million groundhogs or woodchucks get hit by cars every year. Groundhogs are diurnal, but because so many den along roadside embankments in order to take advantage of soft dirt, good drainage, fewer predators, and good forage, they are often living just yards from traffic. Sure this is maladaptive, but groundhogs have not been programmed with cars in mind.

  • Raccoons: Raccoons frequently scavenge in roadside water ditches, are not too fast, are fairly belligerent, sometimes travel in trailing family groups, and hunt at night. Which is a nice way to say their are a lot of vehicle-raccoon impacts -- perhaps 10 million a year, maybe more.

  • Fox: Red fox are field-and-edge creatures, and are much more likely to be hit be a vehicle than a Gray fox which will generally be found in deeper woods and rocky areas. That said, both Red and Gray fox are night time scavengers, and as such are prone to being struck on the road while feeding on the carcass of a snake, possum, rabbit or squirrel previously struck by traffic. The saving grace of a fox is that they are very fast and extremely wary -- the two chief reasons you see fewer dead fox and coyote than you do dead raccoons and possums.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Brain Surgery on My Father

My father had brain surgery early Wednesday morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The procedure involved drilling a hole in the top of his skull until it hit the third ventricle, and then cutting a drain hole in the bottom of the third ventricle so that it would drain out spinal fluid.

The operation was a complete success, and by early afternoon on Friday, my father was back at home making a cheese sandwich for himself, talking on the phone, feeling much improved, and trying to catch up with the news.

Not bad for man past 80! Actually, pretty damn good for an 18-year old!

A Sleeping Giant That is Too Angry to Scrap Book

Parody is what occurs when you move only two degrees past what is actually presented.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Exclude Corrupt Companies from Federal Money

The black-helicopter crowd is banging the gong to make sure ACORN, a community organizing group for the poor, never gets any Federal money for anything ever again, and never mind that ACORN has not been found guilty, and is a small-potatoes recipient of Federal money.

The right-wingers want to exclude ACORN?

Fine with me. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

If you are going to start excluding companies for improprieties, you might want to start with companies that have actually PLEAD GUILTY to lying, stealing and cheating.

But heads up: It's not just defense contractors like Haliburton, Kellog Brown & Root, and Boeing that fall into that folder.

And it's not just oil companies like Shell, Chevron, and Exxon.

It's also heath care companies like these 10, each of which has plead guilty to criminal, as well as civil, fraud charges in recent years:

  1. Pfizer paid $2.3 billion, of which $1.3 billion was a criminal fine for kickbacks and off-label marketing of various drugs.

  2. Lilly Pharmaceuticals paid $1.4 billion to resolve Federal, state and criminal charges related to the off-label marketing of Zyprexa

  3. Columbia HCA paid $840 million in criminal fines, civil penalties and damages for billing for lab tests that were not medically necessary, "upcoding" medical problems in order to get higher reimbursements, billing the government for advertising, and billing the government for non-reimbursable costs.

  4. Serono paid $704 million to settle a fraud involving kickbacks paid to doctors and specialist pharmacies for prescribing Serostim, a human growth hormone.

  5. Taketa-Abbott Pharmaceuticals paid $875 million to resolve criminal and civil liabilities in connection with fraudulent drug pricing and marketing of Lupron, a drug to treat prostate cancer.

  6. Schering Plough paid $435 million to resolve criminal charges and civil liabilities in related to the sales and marketing programs of three drugs (Temodar, Claritin, and K-Dur).

  7. Abbott Labs paid $400 million and pleaded guilty to obstructing a criminal investigation and defrauding the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

  8. Cephalon agreed to pay $375 million to setttle a case involving the off-label marketing of two drugs.

  9. Gambro Healthcare agreed to pay $310.5 million to resolve charges alleging kickbacks paid to physicians, unnecessary tests and services, and payments made to a sham durable medical equipment company.

  10. Bayer Corporation paid $257 million to settle Medicaid fraud charges involving a scheme in which Bayer sold re-labeled products to an HMO at deeply discounted prices, and then concealed this price discount in order to avoid paying additional rebates to the government.

David Cameron on the Ban

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom, has suggested he will vote to repeal the Ban:

"My own view is the hunting ban is a bad piece of legislation, it hasn't worked, it has made a mockery of the law, a lot of time was wasted on it, and I think we would be better off without it. That gives you a clue to how I will vote."


Peter, Paul and Mary :: If I Had a Hammer

Rest in Peace Mary Travers. This song, by the way, was written by Pete Seeger.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Old and New Border Terriers?

Reposted from February 2005

Border terriers owners go to extraordinary lengths to claim that their dogs are an ancient breed, despite all evidence to the contrary -- they point to indistinct dogs tucked into the corners of oil paintings, and talk of everyone from Caius to Walter Scott.

In fact, there is little evidence to suggest the Border Terrier existed before the start of the Kennel Club era which began in the 1860s, and it was not until 1920 that the border terrier made it into the formal Kennel Club roles in the U.K. -- a late entry due to the fact that, up until then, it was not very distinct from the non-pedigree fell terrier which had previously been incorporated into the Kennel Club as the "Welsh Terrier" after an attempt to claim it as an "English Black and Tan Terrier" failed. See here for more on this tale.

One of the more bizarre examples of reaching for history can be seen on pages four and five of Walter Gardner's book "About the Border Terrier." This book is notable -- as are all border terrier books -- for not having a single picture of a border terrier working a fox.

Gardner does, however, devote two full pages to two pictures of "The Old" and "The New." The picture on the left ["The Old (1879)"] shows "The Dandie Dinmont 'Doctor' with Dr. Hemmings' Bedlington Terrier 'Geordie'" The picture on the right ["The New (1973)"] shows "John Jardine of Dandie Dinmont Fame with one of his terriers and Miss M. Edgar with her Border Terrier."

The Old and the New? What? The dogs being compared are not even the same breed!

What is amazing here is the suggestion that the Border Terrier is nothing more than an 1879 Bedlington. This is patent nonsense.

The origins of the border terrier are not complex or deeply hidden -- they are a type of modified fell terrier -- a breed with which they are routinely crossed in working circles to this day.


Growling Old Men :: Madison Brown

Growling Old Men were on Prairie Home Companion as I was returning home from hunting on Sunday, and this tune was just about perfect.

For those who might be slightly confused, the Madison is a river in Montana and Wyoming. The "Brown" here is a reference to Brown trout, which is a non-native species widely found all over the American West and East where the water is cold enough for it to survive.

Growling Old Men (or some pemutation of the musicians in it) have two complete fishing CDs called (appropriately enough) Fishing Music I and II.

And who followed Growling Old Men? None other than Wylie Gustafson. Fun music.

You can get Wylie's stuff here; he's a genuine horse and cattle man, and a cutting horse expert who does it bridleless on his horse, Whiskey.

Nice, nice, nice.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Deer Season :: Be Careful Out There

For those who hunt in Maryland and Virginia, deer season has started (VA, early archery) or is about to start (MD, firearms), which means it's a good time to know where tree stands are, and who else is on the farms where you hunt, especially if it's more than shotgun-only in your area.

Deer season is off-and-on until January.

To give you some idea of how many deer are in the part of Maryland that I hunt, Region B's bag Limit is 12 (2 antlered and 10 antlerless), but in in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties, it's unlimited antlerless. Get a big freezer, and knock yourself out.

For non-hunters, keep an eye out on the roads. Deer in rut lose their minds, and a deer-vehicle impact is a very bad day on the road for all concerned.

Digging on the Dogs

Pearl slides in.

The rebuilt sette afterwards. With very shallow settes, like this one, I put on a "roof" of fallen timber, bark and rotten wood, and then put the dirt back on top. If you do it any other way, the pipe is permanently blocked and the hole is never filled as (due to previous animal excavation) there is not longer enough dirt to do the job.

With deeper settes, I jamb the wood sideways into the hole, and then fill with dirt until flush with the ground. Vegetation mixed with the fill dirt helps keep the dirt stable, and may also speed revegetation around the sette.

Over-vaccination is Bad Medicine

A version of this is in the current edition of Dogs Today.

Nothing has done more for dogs than the rise of vaccination.

It's hard for folks today to understand how devastating distemper was just 60 years ago when going to a dog show was often the precursor to losing entire kennels, with one sick animal serving as a disease vector to hundreds of other fine animals.

Thanks to Britain's fox hunters (who helped fund the initial research), the world now has a good distemper vaccine.

Which is not to say that everything is fine.

You see, too many veterinarians continue to over-vaccinate. And the cost is not just billions of pounds down the rat hole of waste -- it's also a significant number of dogs that end up sick and dying due to vaccination-triggered auto-immune disorders.

What I am saying here is not new; it is OLD.

In fact more than 30 years ago, Ronald D. Schultz, chairman of the University of Wisconsin's Department of Pathobiological Sciences, and one of the foremost experts on dog and cat vaccines in the world, noted that immunity in adult dogs and cats lasted many years, and that there was no rhyme or reason to annual vaccination protocols.

Small Animal Practice (Current Veterinary Therapy, XI) published in 1992, notes that:

Annual vaccination is a practice that was started many years ago and that lacks scientific validity or verification. Almost without exception there is no immunologic requirement for annual re-vaccination. Immunity to viruses persists for years or for the life of the animal."

In the March 1998 issue of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Schultz noted that:

"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."

So what about all those annual Parvo, Distemper, Parainfluenza, Hepatitis and Corona virus booster shots that your veterinarian has been giving your adult dog every year?

Not needed. You are being ripped off. There is no other way to say it.

For decades now, veterinarians have known that cats and dogs inoculated with modified live virus vaccines create "memory T-cells" that contain the code to fight off disease.

If a vaccinated body is ever challenged again by that same type of infection, those memory T-cells swing into action and, using the old code, generate a vast reservoir of new antibodies to fight the infection and return the animal back to health.

Not only are annual booster shots in adult dogs never needed, but over-vaccination is actually dangerous.

And your vet knows this.

Think about it.

Vets love their children, but they have not been vaccinating their kids for measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox and polio every year, have they?


And why not?

Simple: because they know that over-stimulating the immune system of any animal can trigger auto-immune disorders and increase (however slightly) the chance of a cancer occurring at the point of injection.

And so vets do not over-vaccinate their own children and neither do any other doctors.

But many veterinarians over-vaccinate dogs and cats brought into their practice.


The short answer is money.

Let's do the math.

A veterinarian will typically charge £35.00 to £50.00
for an annual "booster" shot.

If the veterinarian does 2,000 booster shots a year (just 8 shot a day) those shots will generate £70,000 to £100,000, for which the vet will only pay about $2,000 for the vaccine.

A nice business!

Of course, the annual booster shot may only be part of the cost to a customer. After all, once someone brings their pet into a veterinary practice, there are so many other things that can be billed for: teeth cleaning, special dog foods, blood tests, stool tests, worming, and flea treatments, for a start.

Less this last point sound overly paranoid or suspicious, it's worth taking time to read through the articles to be found in the journal of Veterinary Economics magazine, which regularly advises American and Canadian veterinarians on how they can replace lost vaccine income by doing a little creative bill padding. How about annual teeth cleaning? The article is entitled "Pearly White Profits." How about performing more thyroid level checks, and doing more de-worming? How about checking the titer levels on old vaccines -- and never mind that low titers are not an indication of lack of immunity?

In short, the business of veterinary care is business. No surprise there.

What is a surprise, for many, is how mercenary veterinary billing has become. One of the sages at Veterinary Economics advises that "Practices that charge more will make more money and work less hours."

The same advisor tells vets across the country to never fee guilty about ripping off the rubes, no matter how poor they are. After all,

"The less money a family makes, the more TV channels they have."

Of course, it is easy to paint with a broad brush. It is important to remember that almost all dog owners will eventually need a veterinarian to solve a canine health problem, and that some of the very best people in the world are veterinarians.

That said, it's also important to remember that, as a group, veterinarians are not more honest -- or less honest -- than anyone else in this world.

As in all things, caveat emptor.

A lot of money can be saved by doing a little research, asking a few questions, expressing a healthy skepticism, and (sometimes) simply saying NO.

Finally, if you have a good vet who is not jabbing your dog with unnecessary vaccines at every turn, do not be shy about recommending him or her to your family and friends. Let them know why you are staying with their practice. Bill padding, after all, creates its own cash incentives. Only by speaking up, and voting with our feet and wallets, can we incentivize integrity.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

You Might Need a New Vet If ...

If your vet has an eye chart, change practices!

David Zincavage Is a Thief

David Zincavage of Bluemont, Virginia, is a thief. The page at the link, above, will remain up as simple declarative statement. It will disappear when he follows the law.

Move Over Bruce Springsteen


America is a country rolling in talent. Here's a nice example. Just a guy, a guitar, a cause, and a little humor. And he has an album with such songs as:

1. Stop This Shit
2. Honor and Dignity
3. Iraqi Homesick Blues
4. Happy Bomb Maker
5. Pennsylvania Stars
6. All American Boy
7. Flags Along Main Street
8. Send The Twins
9. Hey Baby Hey
10. Meth And Man Ass
11. Fearless
12. 3,800 Souls
Buy the album! As a capitalist, I am pretty sure that if America is to be saved, it will be saved at a small profit.

Norman Borlaug Has Died at Age 95

Nobel laureate Norman E. Borlaug, an agricultural scientist who helped develop disease-resistant wheat used to fight famine in poor countries, died Saturday. He was 95. Borlaug was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006, and he created the World Food Prize.

If there are wild tigers left in India today, it is because of Norman Borlaug. As I noted in a piece I wrote back in 2001,

If you're like most Americans, you've probably never heard of Norman Borlaug despite the fact that he is one of only three living Americans to have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Borlaug is widely credited for being the father of the Green Revolution, which jumpstarted agriculture in the developing world. Thanks to Borlaug and his sponsors at the Rockefeller Foundation, India and Pakistan doubled and then tripled grain production in the late '60s and '70s. As a result, massive famines were averted in much of the developing world.

Because of his agricultural innovations, Borlaug has probably saved more human lives than anyone who has ever lived.

But Borlaug can claim credit for more than saving human life: He has saved a lot of the natural world as well. Because of dramatic boosts in agricultural output made possible by the Green Revolution, a lot less land has fallen under the plow. Borlaug himself calculates that if 1961 agricultural yields still prevailed today, three times more land in China and the United States, and two times more land in India, would be needed to equal current cereal production.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Type of Dog?

What type or types of dogs are these?
What were they bred for?

The answer: The top two are Boxers and are, in fact two of the most famous early Boxers. The animal on the left is Alt's Schecken No.50 in 1893, while the animal on the right is Flock St Salvator No.14, taken in 1894. See here for more.

The animal at the bottom is an American Pit Bull which is both UKC and ADBA registered.

All three dogs were bred to grab animals and hold them -- cattle and wild pig in particular.  These are butcher's dogs, along with the Rottweiler and the Dogue de Bordeaux. 

The point here is these dogs are essentially the same breed -- a point missed by those who say "that's not a Pit Bull, that's a Boxer-American Bulldog cross."

Here a hint: an American Bulldog is a Pit Bull. So too are a number of the various cocked up molosser breeds like the Dogo Argentino.

Of course, what you breed for is what you get, but it does not happen quite as quickly as a name change does it? And if the animal is still being bred as a game bred dog by many, it may not happen at all.