Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Another Mittwoch, another week halfway through.

I find it more than a little disappointing that the Smithsonian magazine, a publication nominally concerned with science, would stoop to this:  On the Trail of Florida’s Bigfoot – The Skunk Ape.  Excerpt:

The first time Dave Shealy saw a skunk ape, he says, he was ten years old. It was 1974, a few years after his father had come upon a set of footprints left by the creature—an Everglades version of Bigfoot named for its supposedly pungent odor. Dave was out deer hunting with his older brother, Jack, in the swamp behind his house, in what’s now Big Cypress National Preserve, when he encountered the ape incarnate.

“It was walking across the swamp, and my brother spotted it first. But I couldn’t see it over the grass—I wasn’t tall enough,” Shealy says. “My brother picked me up, and I saw it, about 100 yards away. We were just kids, but we’d heard about it, and knew for sure what we were looking at. It looked like a man, but completely covered with hair.” He and his brother stared at the creature, mouths agape, but almost at the same time, as he tells it, the skies opened and rain poured down. The ape hurried away, into the cypress hummocks scattered amongst the marsh. “Holy crap,” he remembers thinking. “I finally saw this damn thing, and it got away, just like that.”

An expert.
An expert.

Here’s the point:  He didn’t see a skunk ape.

There aren’t any skunk apes.

There aren’t any Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) Yetis, or any other mysterious, hairy, bipedal apes.

Why so confident, you ask?  Simply this:  Biology.  There can’t be just a few of these creatures running around – there has to be a population.  A genetically viable, breeding population – thousands of animals.  In the heavily settled Southeast, it’s staggeringly unlikely that a population of thousands of giant, hairy bipedal apes exists and yet not one has been killed by a car, or shot by a hunter, or died and left remains anywhere where a human could stumble across them.

A corpse, now that would be proof – inarguable proof.  But we don’t have a corpse, we’ve never had a corpse, and unless the dumbfoundingly unlikely actually happens, we won’t have a corpse.  And what’s more, in this era where every cell phone has a camera, nobody manages to get an unarguable photo.  Let a cop start smacking around a gang punk and everyone and their brother is taking video, but a giant, bipedal hairy ape?  Somehow we’re still stuck with grainy, crappy video that could be anything from a man in a gorilla suit to a rerun of I Love Lucy.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.  In this case, there just isn’t any.

But still – videos keep surfacing:


Animal’s Daily News

Relaxing BearThanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

If you haven’t read George Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty: A New Edition for the Twenty-First Century, or his equally excellent Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How it is Revolutionizing our World, then do so at once; until you do, have a look at his nutshell explanation of capitalism and why it’s the best economic system:

What does the admittedly-brilliant (on economics) George Gilder leave out?  Simply this; the best justification for capitalism is that it is the natural product of free people deciding for themselves what to do with their own resources, skills, talents, abilities and labor.

There’s no better argument for capitalism than that.  Unfortunately it’s been a long, long time since the United States had a completely capitalist economy; probably not since the middle 1800s.  And we’re moving farther away from that state every time Congress is in session.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!
Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Here’s an interesting critique of the Obama Administration’s ongoing abuse of executive power – and from that notorious right-wing rag, the Los Angeles Times, no less.    Read for yourselves:  The President’s Power Grab.  Excerpt:

Recently, a bizarre scene unfolded on the floor of the House of Representatives that would have shocked the framers of the Constitution. In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced that he had decided to go it alone in areas where Congress refused to act to his satisfaction. In a system of shared powers, one would expect an outcry or at least stony silence when a president promised to circumvent the legislative branch. Instead, many senators and representatives erupted in rapturous applause; they seemed delighted at the notion of a president assuming unprecedented and unchecked powers at their expense.

Last week, Obama underlined what this means for our system: The administration unilaterally increased the transition time for individuals to obtain the level of insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act. There is no statutory authority for the change — simply the raw assertion of executive power.

The United States is at a constitutional tipping point: The rise of an uber presidency unchecked by the other two branches.

Now, all Presidents have used executive orders.  Some more than others.  But what’s different this time is this:  The Obama Administration is (ab)using that authority to circumvent legislation (the previously mentioned and badly misnamed Affordable Care Act) for no better reason than the fact that this poorly planned, poorly thought-out, disastrously incompetent piece of legislation would cost Democrats heavily in the fall elections if it were to take full effect.

Bear SpeechIn other words, now that the President’s signature piece of legislation is passed, he is arbitrarily enforcing/not enforcing bits and pieces of it, for political gain.

That’s not how the system is supposed to work.  As the Democrats in Congress are fond of pointing out, it’s the law now.  It has to be enforced.  The Democrats have made their Affordable Care Act bed, and the President is sheltering them from the consequences of having to lie in it.

Rule Five Friday

2014_03_07_Rule Five Friday (1)This is going to be brief, as a long drive followed by a plane ride beckons, and that’s coming off a late night (working) last night and a nearly-full day working today.  Add to that no prep since there was no telling when our hosting service’s server crash would be resolved, and add in a touch of procrastination…

…well, sorry.

But the big deal in the news lately?  Well, if you’re interesting in geopolitics, Cold War-like military posturing and possible sparks to regional warfare, then surely the Russian boots-on-ground in the Crimea are on your mind.  Some relevant stories:

Things Are Getting Dicier in Crimea.

What Game of Chess?2014_03_07_Rule Five Friday (2)

Obama Signs Executive Order on Ukraine Sanctions.

Crimea Sets Referendum on Joining Russia (Shades of 1930’s Austria!)

Russia Blows Past Obama’s Off Ramp.

What will the Obama Administration do about this?  Other than some sanctions that Vladimir Putin will laugh off, nothing.  Putin knows this.  He seized the Crimea knowing this.  He will keep the Crimea knowing this.  Down the road, he may indulge in more 2014_03_07_Rule Five Friday (3)military adventurism elsewhere, knowing this.

Remember what started the first World War?  A minor arch-duke got himself popped, and the world was plunged into war.  WW2 was arguably a continuation of the Great War, with a second theater opened in the Pacific.

Is the world ready for Round Three?

2014_03_07_Rule Five Friday (4)

Rule Five Friday

2014_02_28_Rule Five Friday (1)I love Japan.

While all you True Believers enjoy today’s dose of summery totty from the Land of the Rising Sun, consider also the fact that HOLY SHIT IT’S COLD.  Excerpt:

The number of days with subzero temperatures has reached record or near-record levels for many Midwest cities this winter. We have the rankings for several of these cities, starting with two locations that will log day 70 of subzero temperatures on Friday.

Note: A subzero day is one where the temperature fell below zero at any one point during a particular calendar day.

2014_02_28_Rule Five Friday (2)If you grew up in the upper Midwest, like yr. obdt., you’re used to cold winters.  But this year, with the jet stream still stuck somewhere around the Gulf Coast, sucking a bunch of Arctic air down across the country’s midsection, the cold is just hanging on.

And hanging on.

And on.

Now tomorrow is the first of March, and we’re still stuck in January temperatures.  Honestly, Mr. Gore, where is all this global warming?  We could use a little bit of that right now.

One thing, by the way, that’s hard to understand about the whole climate-change controversy.  The fact that the climate changes over time isn’t in doubt.  The question of how much human activity affects 2014_02_28_Rule Five Friday (3)climate is subject to debate.  But consider this; what also isn’t in doubt is that over most of the Earth’s 4.55 billion year history, it’s been warmer than it is now.  As recently as 2,000 years ago, the Romans were growing wine grapes in Britain – an act of agronomy that requires warmer climes than those isles see today.

So who are we to say that the average climate we see today is the “correct” climate?  Who are we to say what the proper temperature is?  Just because this is where it’s been since, say, the Middle Ages?

The fact is, the planet doesn’t have any “correct” temperature.   Many factors affect climate – the Sun, volcanoes, plant life, the positions of the continents as they slide around the Earth at the rate of a fingernail growing, ocean currents and, yes, people.  And all of those factors add up to one thing – an unimaginably complex system that we can’t hope to understand completely, much less model.

2014_02_28_Rule Five Friday (4)And if the Earth were to warm up a few degrees?  Some bad things would happen – coastal areas in particular would have some problems.  But Siberia would blossom into an Asian breadbox.  Alaska’s Matanuska Valley would likewise bloom.

Those who would have us clamp down on all manner of economic activity, like the Keystone pipeline, in the name of “climate change” are peddling a line of buncombe.  Examine carefully their motives- it 2014_02_28_Rule Five Friday (5)generally isn’t about science.

The other side of the unfortunate coin is this:  The unsettled question of climate change has led many – mostly on the right – to include other areas of scientific endeavor in their skepticism, whether their doubt is warranted or not.  And that’s not a good thing.

In the meantime, the deep freeze continues.


2014_02_28_Rule Five Friday (6)

Animal’s Daily News

Bear-with-CubShould the GOP leadership be so stuck on Ted Cruz? Excerpt:

All this whining about Ted Cruz is getting on my nerves.  They’re upset that he’s criticizing Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell, instead of rallying to the Republican establishment banner in all the primaries, the better, they seem to think, to take over the Senate after the November elections.  “Fight Obama, not the Republican leadership.”

So their argument is that hard-fought primaries might produce more conservative candidates in November, and this would be a bad thing.  It’s going to be hard to convince Cruz, since he’s only in the Senate because he challenged the establishment candidate in the Republican primary in Texas a couple of years ago.  And won the primary.  And then won the general election bigtime.

Mind you, I’m not in favor of supporting deranged candidates.  I shudder at the thought of repeats of some of the latest conservative nominees.  But I’m not at all convinced that tough primaries are bad for the Republican Party, or indeed for the country.  Quite the contrary.  I’m all for it.  The country’s in a terrible jam and we need outstanding leaders, men of strong will and conviction, who won’t catch Potomac fever, who won’t go along to win the next election.  I don’t think the Republican Party is well led.  Who does?  I think McConnell and Boehner have run away from too many important fights.

Boy howdy, ain’t that the truth.  Witness as an example the GOP’s recent cave on the debt ceiling, where they went tits-up and didn’t receive one single concession in return.

Both political parties are going through a time of transition, but while the Democrats are moving to the left, led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and, yes, Barack Obama, the GOP’s transition is much less clear.  The libertarian wing of the party, a group that includes yr. obdt, is gaining ground, while the older, uber-religious wing of the party seems to be losing a little influence.

Relaxing BearBear in mind that both major parties are coalitions, and the various wings have to agree on a candidate, at least for the most part, or the party won’t win elections.

Cruz is a gadfly.  Gadflies are good for the political process.  They stir things up.  The GOP could use some stirring up – they’ve been far too spineless lately.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Once more into the Hump Day breach!

One wonders about all the implications of this science-y tidbit:  Dad May Join Two Moms for Disease-Free Designer Babies.  Excerpt:

A new technology aimed at eliminating genetic disease in newborns would combine the DNA of three people, instead of just two, to create a child, potentially redrawing ethical lines for designer babies.

The process works by replacing potentially variant DNA in the unfertilized eggs of a hopeful mother with disease-free genes from a donor. U.S. regulators today will begin weighing whether the procedure, used only in monkeys so far, is safe enough to be tested in humans.

Because the process would change only a small, specific part of genetic code, scientists say a baby would largely retain the physical characteristics of the parents. Still, DNA from all three — mother, father and donor — would remain with the child throughout a lifetime, opening questions about long-term effects for this generation, and potentially the next. Ethicists worry that allowing pre-birth gene manipulation may one day lead to build-to-order designer babies.

It takes some doing to wrap the brain around this one.

We’re only really beginning to unravel the mysteries of genetics.  At the moment we can’t guess at what all may be possible – although a lot of ink and pixels have been burned up in speculation, both in fiction and non-fiction.  Robert Heinlein’s entertaining work Friday is one such, the story of a genetically engineered superwoman trained as a combat courier.   A common saying among the artificial humans in that work is this:  “My mother was a test tube – my father was a knife.”

Thoughtful-BearAt the present, here in the real world, there’s no evidence that genetic manipulation could be used to produce designer babies, much less supermen.  But fifty years from now?

Who knows?

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.