August 19, 2014

But Then You Totally *Knew* This, Didn't You?

Cows. Their social lives are complicated:


The calves have the strongest social contacts while feeding on hay rather than on grain. This is probably because cattle spend longer feeding on hay to re-ruminate having eaten grain.

During feeding time the cattle compete with each other for food at the grain bunk and therefore cannot always eat with an intentionally chosen partner. So the contacts around the grain bank may not necessarily reflect social ties (!).

However, after feeding on grain there is less competition and the cattle can go with a chosen partner to the hay. "It is only the contacts around the hay bunk during feeding time that may attribute to the real social ties," the researchers conclude.

That should have significant implications for the way animal behavioral specialists study social networks of other animals, particularly in the wild…..What's more, the key finding is that it is important to distinguish between random contacts and social ones—although this can only be done with the aid of detailed knowledge of the animal habitat and behavior.


It's like a jungle out there
Sometime I wondah
how I keep from goin' under

And don't even get me started on horses. It's gettin' real on the mean meadows of western Maryland.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:24 AM | Comments (11) |TrackBack (0) |

August 14, 2014

To Encourage Responsible Black Leaders, Try Listening to Them

This piece in the WSJ struck a bit of a nerve with the Editorial Staff:

The lead item on much television news since the weekend has been the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer. On display was what has now become the fairly standard response in these matters: the inconsolable mother, the testimony of the dead teenager's friends to his innocence, the aunts and cousins chiming in, the police chief's earnest promise of a thorough investigation. The death in Ferguson added to the mix three nights of protest and looting, with police using tear-gas and rubber bullets to quell the crowds, but otherwise the feeling was not dissimilar from what we saw two years ago after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. The same lawyer who represented the Martin family, it was announced, is going to take this case.

Missing, not that anyone is likely to have noticed, was the calming voice of a national civil-rights leader of the kind that was so impressive during the 1950s and '60s. In those days there was Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young of the National Urban League, Bayard Rustin of the A. Philip Randolph Institute—all solid, serious men, each impressive in different ways, who through dignified forbearance and strategic action, brought down a body of unequivocally immoral laws aimed at America's black population.

King died in 1968, at age 39; Young in 1971 at 50; Wilkins in 1981 at 80; and Rustin in 1987 at 75. None has been replaced by men of anywhere near the same high caliber. In their place today there is only Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, each of whom long ago divested himself of the moral force required of true leadership. One of the small but genuine accomplishments of President Obama has been to keep both of these men from becoming associated with the White House.

The same day the WSJ article was written, this press release landed in my Inbox:

Washington, D.C. / St. Louis, MO - Members of the Project 21 black leadership network, some of whom are St. Louis residents and eyewitnesses to the unfolding controversy, are speaking out about the continuing protests, looting and rioting in the St. Louis area that have resulted in dozens of arrests.

Christopher Arps "It's a tragedy what happened over the weekend to young Michael Brown. Cooler heads should now prevail until the investigation is complete. This tense situation does not need outside agitators swooping in fanning the flames of an already tense situation," said Project 21 member Christopher Arps, a St. Louis area resident who attended the August 10 prayer vigil held outside the Ferguson Police Department.

Stacy Washington "The most important thing anyone can do in this tragedy surrounding the officer involved in the shooting of Michael Brown is to take a step back and wait for the entirety of the facts to come to light. The rioting looters are opportunists: people who've taken a tragedy and are using it as an excuse to exercise their most base and criminal desires. These lawless individuals are stealing from a community that's already reeling from losing one of their own," added Stacy Washington, a radio talk show host on WFTK-St. Louis and St. Louis resident. "As a community, the people of Ferguson have already repudiated the behavior of the looters. Now it's time to support the family of Mike Brown, the business owners who lost their livelihoods and the employees who've lost their jobs. I look forward to the conclusion of the investigation."

Horace Cooper "Looting and rioting is never justified. These aren't the actions of mainstream black America. These are the hooligans and thugs who make life miserable for everyone else by taking advantage of what they see as an opportunity," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper. "Likewise, Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump seem more interested in inflaming the situation than seeing to it that justice is done. A rush to judgment before all of the facts are in does nothing for black America or to improve race relations. It would be better for Sharpton to head back to New York City."

Nadra Enzi "Police shoot and losers loot! Looting doesn't bring justice, but does bring to light those destroying the inner city from within. These public riots merely underscore the private ones endured daily by residents who are held hostages by the 'hood. Run a background check on the looters and watch the story unfold about their real motives," said Project 21 member Nadra Enzi, an anti-crime activist in New Orleans. "Is it too much to ask President Obama and the civil rights lobby to denounce this crime spree disguised as a police brutality protest?"

This is what leadership looks like. I've been on the Project 21 mailing list for about as long as I've been blogging. I don't quote them nearly enough, or highlight the good work they do to improve the lives of black Americans and promote good relations between blacks and whites.

When self-interested agitators like Sharpton and Jackson rush to the scene of the latest racial incident to fan the flames and spray gallons of healing gasoline on the troubled waters, the media fall all over themselves to give them airtime (as though something actually worth quoting had erupted from their stately blowholes, instead of the trite, predictable demagoguery of men who make a living from ginning up distrust and hatred). So, too, do too many conservatives; though our commentary is more often geared toward rebuttal than praise.

When a tragedy like the latest one in Ferguson occurs, the easiest thing in the world is to get angry. I wonder how often we stop to consider the worth of leaders who - despite a natural inclination to the same anguish and outrage felt by rioters in Ferguson - offer reason and appeals for constructive action instead?

There’s something else, harder to discuss but, like so many such things, urgent nonetheless. Deep breath: The black community cannot pretend that the stereotype of black men as violent comes out of nowhere.

Young black men commit about 50 percent of the murders in this country, 14 times more than young white men. Or, where do murder rates among young white men go up each summer the way they do among black ones in cities like Chicago? “Flash robs” happen when large groups of teens beset a store and steal from it, and I’m sorry, but these are rarely white affairs.

There are reasons for things like these. However, we are being unrealistic to expect America to watch these things and think it’s okay because the boys don’t have Dads and decent-paying low-skill jobs aren’t always easy to find. Let’s face it: If Korean boys regularly did things like this, we’d all be scared to death of them.

Be clear: Michael Brown’s murder was grievously unjustified regardless. And forget the tired canard that the black community doesn’t care about black-on-black murder, which could only be leveled by someone who doesn’t know much about black people. Stop the Violence events are a staple in black neighborhoods.

Yet, I wonder if the black community could step it up some on this. We need to devote some more energy to figuring out what we can do about The Violence, because among all else that it destroys, it feeds a perception bias that ends up killing innocents like Michael Brown.

That took courage, and a level of self-discipline most of us would be proud to be capable of. To resist striking back, condemn lawless rioting, bite back the thousand easy responses that come so naturally to every human social group, be it based upon race, familial ties, religion, or simply shared values is surely admirable and worthy of our attention and respect?

We are all, in some sense, possessed of dual citizenship. We are citizens of America; of our states, towns, or cities; members of this or that racial, ethnic, or religious group. And nothing could be more natural than to bitterly resent injuries to those we identify most closely with. Black leaders like these embody all that is best and noblest in human nature. They lead and inspire by example.

So why don't we pay more attention to them? So long as we continue to provide a live microphone to demagogues like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and ignore the real black leaders stepping up every day all over this nation, we are compounding the problem. Conservatives like to talk about incentives: what we reward and pay attention to, we can expect to see more of.

That's an observation we should apply to our own conduct. If you're a blogger, consider giving groups like Project 21 a turn at the mike. If you don't have a blog, add them to your reading list and share their public statements with others. There is so much that is good and inspiring in this country, if only we will take the time to see it.

Posted by Cassandra at 08:09 AM | Comments (22) |TrackBack (0) |

Fairness, Corporate Inversions, and the Level Playing Field

Progressives like to talk about fairness and the importance of having a level playing field. But oddly, their public policy prescriptions for American businesses - the job creators we so desperately need to maintain a robust job market and provide employment for American workers - almost always involve markedly unfair and inequitable treatment of American business owners:

We've written for years about how the U.S. has the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world, and that's an incentive for all companies, wherever they are based, to invest outside the U.S. But the current appetite for inversions—in which a U.S. firm buys a foreign company and adopts its legal address while keeping operational headquarters in the U.S.—results from the combination of this punitive rate with a separate problem created by Washington.

The U.S. is one of only six OECD countries that imposes on its businesses the world-wide taxation of corporate profits. Every company pays taxes to the country in which profits are earned. But U.S. companies have the extra burden of also paying the IRS whenever those profits come back from the foreign country into the U.S. The tax bill is the difference between whatever the companies paid overseas and the 35% U.S. rate.

The perverse result is that a foreign company can choose to invest in the U.S. without penalty, but U.S.-based Medtronic would pay hundreds of millions and perhaps billions in additional taxes if it wanted to bring overseas profits back to its home country. Medtronic's work-around is essentially to become Covidien so it can more easily increase its investments in the U.S.—and the firm has promised to invest an additional $10 billion in America over the next decade.

Keep in mind that the money invested in corporations was once earned by someone who paid taxes on it. And it will be taxed again as dividends or capital gains. The point is that the U.S. government wants to tax U.S. business profits far more than other countries do. Inversions allow U.S. firms a level playing field that the U.S. tax code otherwise denies them.

Meanwhile, the President continues to suggest that corporations who take advantage of perfectly legal foreign mergers (among them are many high dollar contributors to his own campaign) are "refusing to play by the rules". If he truly believes some of his biggest donors/supporters have done something unpatriotic and morally wrong, one might expect him to return their ill-gotten donations.

One would, of course, be wrong to expect Obama's actions to match his rhetoric:

President Barack Obama won’t return campaign donations to executives, advisers and directors who have profited from offshore mergers that reduce corporate taxes using a technique he has called “unpatriotic.”

Responding to a Bloomberg News report that described connections between more than 20 Obama donors and the tax-cutting transactions, White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the president will keep the cash.

"I see nothing wrong with taking unfairly earned money from unpatriotic American corporations who have renounced their American citizenship and refuse to play by the rules the rest of us follow every day" doesn't exactly smack of moral conviction, does it? But then the Democrats seem to see little utility in actually following the rules they'd like to force on the rest of us:

On both sides of the aisle, there is a racial pay gap in campaign politics. Asian, Black and Latino staffers are paid less than their white counterparts, according to an analysis by the New Organizing Institute. For example, African-American staffers on Democratic campaigns were paid 70 cents for each dollar their white counterparts made. For Hispanic staffers in Democratic campaigns, the figure was 68 cents on the dollar.

And a recent study by PowerPAC+, funded by a major Democratic donor, revealed that less than 2 percent of spending by Democratic campaign committees during the past two election cycles went to firms owned by minorities.

What's the only time disparate impact is not - we repeat, NOT! - introvertible evidence of racially or sexually discriminatory hiring practices?

When it's practiced by Democrats, natürlich.

Posted by Cassandra at 07:38 AM | Comments (3) |TrackBack (0) |

August 13, 2014

The Vigil

Presented without comment as anything I could say would be grossly insufficient.

Well done, young man.
For a Man you are.

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Shaken, Not Stirred


In this photo released Wednesday, August 6, an elephant relieves an itch on a small car in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park. The two passengers in the car were shaken up but not injured.

CWCID: the Spousal Unit, who is very good about supplying the Blog Princess with pachydermal pulchritude.

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August 12, 2014

In The Midst of Sadness...

...comes something special from the VES:

Santa's letter.png

Continue reading "In The Midst of Sadness..."

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Why Smart, Capable, Fully-Equal Women Need Free Stuff

Because even though women ARE TOO! just as smart, capable, and hard working as our hate-filled, patriarchal oppressors, we are simultaneously helpless and incapable of figuring how to provide for ourselves:

Sanitary products are vital for the health, well-being and full participation of women and girls across the globe. The United Nations and Human Rights Watch, for example, have both linked menstrual hygiene to human rights. Earlier this year, Jyoti Sanghera, chief of the UN Human Rights Office on Economic and Social Issues, called the stigma around menstrual hygiene “a violation of several human rights, most importantly the right to human dignity”.

In countries where sanitary products are inaccessible or unaffordable, menstruation can mean missed school for girls (UNICEF estimates 10% of African girls don’t attend school during their periods) and an increased dropout rate, missed work for women and repeated vaginal infections because of unsanitary menstrual products. One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days – and six days of pay – every month because of their periods.

I'll tell you what other things necessary for people of all kinds to live and work and thrive.

Food isn't free, and it's about as basic as things get. Without it, people starve to death.

Shelter isn't free.

And we're pretty sure that clothes are a big "must-have" item in the workplace or classroom. But by all means, let's focus on tampons.

Dear Lord, please make it stop.

Posted by Cassandra at 01:16 PM | Comments (25) |TrackBack (0) |

Obstruction at Justice

A while back, the Editorial Staff alerted the assembled villainry to what appeared to be a serious breath of legal ethics by the Obama Justice department:

...look who's defending the IRS in court!

Defending IRS commissioner John Koskinen against the claims of the pro-Israel group Z Street is Andrew Strelka — and before joining the Department of Justice’s civil-trial section, Strelka worked at the IRS for Lois Lerner, who was then the agency’s head of exempt organizations. As it happens, this is the very IRS division at which the mistreatment of Z Street is alleged to have occurred — and Strelka worked there at the very time Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status was being considered.

Scott Coffina, a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath and a former Justice Department prosecutor says

Strelka’s representation could violate Washington, D.C.’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers in “several” ways, in particular the rule that prohibits a lawyer from representing a client in a matter where “The lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected” by his personal interests.

...While at the IRS, documents indicate, Strelka was kept abreast of the agency’s targeting practices.

Today we learn that Herr. Strelka has been withdrawn as counsel, not just for the Z Street case, but in two other pending cases against the IRS:

It was fishy enough when Democratic donor Barbara Bosserman was appointed to lead the Justice Department investigation of IRS targeting of conservative groups. Now there are new questions about Justice's staffing choice on one of the private lawsuits brought against the IRS.

We've been telling you about the pro-Israel group Z Street, which sued the IRS in 2010 on grounds that the agency engaged in viewpoint discrimination when it singled out 501(c) groups with Israel-related missions for additional scrutiny. The case has been handled by Justice Department trial attorney Andrew Strelka, who previously worked in the IRS office run by Lois Lerner that handled tax-exempt applications.

... Mr. Strelka was thus both Justice's lawyer on the case and potentially a witness.

...We say "was" because recently Mr. Strelka was withdrawn as the Justice Department's counsel of record on the Z Street case. A review of court dockets showed that he has also withdrawn from two other cases involving tax-exempt groups, including Judicial Watch's suit against the IRS.

...Cleta Mitchell, who represents conservative groups who saw their applications for tax-exempt status slow-tracked, says she talked to Mr. Strelka when he was at the IRS starting in June and July of 2010 about a client whose tax-exempt application was delayed. After applying for 501(c)(4) status in October 2009, the client heard nothing until June 2010, when Mr. Strelka asked to see ads the group had run that were critical of Administration health-care policy.

This means Mr. Strelka was directly engaged in the policies at the Exempt Organizations Unit that led to the lawsuits charging the agency with viewpoint discrimination. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, barring special exceptions, "A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness."

We are shocked... SHOCKED, we tell you, to find unethical behavior going on in this administration. Fortunately, at any moment our Constitutional Law Prez should be along to clean house.

Then again, perhaps not:

The highly visible wartime vacation (Obama allowed himself to be photographed on a putting green Saturday with NBA star Ray Allen and retired pro-football player Ahmad Rashad) was not looking any better Monday as Iraq’s political crisis worsened, NATO’s chief declared a “high probability” of Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Gaza remained on a knife edge.

By Monday afternoon, the crises had forced Obama to revise his schedule. The White House announced that the president, after returning from the beach, would make an unscheduled statement about Iraq. He freshened up at his 8,100-square-foot vacation home, then stepped outside, in a blue blazer and open collar; his aides wisely chose a wooded backdrop rather than one with the infinity pool and the sweeping water views. Obama finished his four-minute statement and then hopped in his motorcade for the ride to a Democratic fundraiser.

...Criticism from Clinton. War with the Islamic State. Trouble with Maliki. It’s enough to make a man hook his drive into the sand trap.

Don't worry, folks. America's IG Corps are still hard at work:

The 47 IGs minced no words: “Each of us strongly supports the principle that an inspector general must have complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that IG’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens. The importance of this principle, which was codified by Congress in Section 6(a)(1) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended (the IG Act), cannot be overstated. Refusing, restricting, or delaying an IG's access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance.”

Three specific examples were described in the IGs' letter, including blatant obstruction of important investigations at the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice and the Peace Corps.

... The experience of Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz is especially outrageous. In a Senate hearing in April, Horowitz said his office must go through Attorney General Eric Holder to gain access to DOJ documents and officials. Giving Holder the power to veto an IG’s access in that manner egregiously violates the 1978 law and other statutes. Obstruction like Holder’s risks “leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct – the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address,” the IGs said in their letter to Congress.


Posted by Cassandra at 08:48 AM | Comments (10) |TrackBack (0) |


...a fellow of infinite jest,
of most excellent fancy.

He hath borne me on his back a thousand times...

Where be your gibes now?
Your gambols? Your songs?
Your flashes of merriment
that were wont to set the table on a roar?

Robin Williams was such a brilliant comic that it's easy to forget what a magnificent actor he was, too.

For a short time he streaked across the sky like a comet, leaving a trail of wonder behind him.

Whatever ever else he was, he was never ordinary.

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