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February 05, 2013

Coffee Snorters: Stone Cold Killers Edition

And by "stone cold killer", we mean Fluffy the domestic purr factory. Charles Lane asks, "What shall we do about these killer cats?":

... government-affiliated scientists have produced statistical proof of feline perfidy, in a new study showing that cats stalk and kill 2.4  billion birds and 12.3  billion mammals in the United States each year, give or take a few billion.

This “kill rate” is two to four times higher than previously believed, and worse than that attributable to windmills, cars and other “anthropogenic” killers.

The victims include not just rats and mice but also songbirds, chipmunks and other valued wildlife species, according to the New York Times.

Feral — “stray” — cats, which number 80  million or so, are the main culprits, the study concluded. But the nation’s 86.4  million domestic cats account for about 29  percent of cat-on-bird killings and 11  percent of cat-on-mammal slaughter.

It's a good thing no one can prove these felines are reaping obscene profits from the fossil fuel industry (or - Goddess forfend! - voting for Republicans). Otherwise, the Justice Department would be prosecuting cats and cat owners within an inch of their miserable, Gaia-raping lives:

A few months ago, the Justice Department brought charges against Oklahoma oil company Continental Resources as well as six others in North Dakota for causing the death of 28 migratory birds in violation of the Bird Treaty Act.

...Continental was accused of killing one bird “the size of a sparrow” in its oil pits. “It’s not even a rare bird. There’re jillions of them,” Hamm said during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Yet in central California, 70 golden eagles were killed by wind turbines at Altamont Pass, without prosecution. The findings follow a 2008 study by the Fish and Wildlife Service that estimates wind farms kill nearly a half million birds per year in the United States.

Wethinks it's time for the President to follow his own oft-proffered (try saying *that* 3 times quickly!) advice. America should be a country where everyone plays by the same set of rules.

And if it prevents the death of just one innocent sparrow, we are morally obligated to do something.


A Virginian gently makes fun of the Commonwealth:

Only one or two centuries late, Virginia lawmakers have decided it is none of their business if unmarried couples share a roof. So the legislators are now working diligently to repeal the state’s law against “lewd and lascivious cohabitation.” Huzzahs all ’round for that.

But do not unclutch thy bodice yet. Virginia law is riddled with antiquated provisions meant to govern the “morals and decency” of the fair people of the commonwealth. And while the law against shacking up apparently never gets enforced, others do.

Just for starters: While it might soon be legal to live in sin, that doesn’t mean you can, by gad sir, fornicate. Fornication remains forbidden under the Code of Virginia, Section 18.2-344. So keep your hands and whatnot to yourself. Especially the whatnots.

And don’t even think of doing other stuff. Virginia’s “crimes against Nature” statute—Section 18.2-361—still prohibits oral sex. Even between married straight couples. Moreover, state lawmakers seem particularly opposed to that practice—because in Virginia, it’s a felony. Efforts to repeal that provision or even to reduce oral sex to a misdemeanor have failed repeatedly.

Also: Don’t try to open a “bawdy place,” which the code defines as any place “used for lewdness, assignation or prostitution.” (Assignation?)

The meme du jour (really, mème de l'année for every year we can remember) on conservative blogs is that America has devolved into some sort of fascist police/nanny state... in our lifetimes, no less! And there's little doubt that the federal government in particular passes a lot of ill advised and intrusive laws. When it is pointed out to conservatives that the Golden Age of Small Government - typically rather loosely defined as "any time I am too young to have lived under, or remember either" was just chock full of the kind of intrusive, nanny statism we upright defenders of something-or-other normally decry, they generally reply, "But we're totally *fine* with nanny statism at the State level!"

To which the princess often finds herself thinking, "Hmmm.... what's more onerous? The vague threat that federal law enforcement will happen by and arrest us for engaging in proscribed marital delights? Or the far more likely threat that local law enforcement will pull us over whilst we attempt to enjoy the wonders of nature on the Blue Ridge Parkway?

Yes, we get the arguments for federalism. It's the weirdly asymmetrical threat-assessment-and-consequent-outrage we don't quite cotton to. I can't quite escape the recurring thought that most political outrage (yes, even ours) is poorly thought out. Having lived under a system of laws in which both fornication and adultery were punishable offenses under the UCMJ, I can attest that it's quite possible to be happy - to thrive, even! - under such a soul-crushing regime. I'm reminded of a fascinating study on what happens to our professed beliefs when we're asked to explain how our preferred policy positions will work in the real world:

In a forthcoming article in Psychological Science, written with Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and Craig Fox of U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management, we report on experiments showing that people often believe they understand what is meant by well-worn political terms like the “flat tax,” “sanctions on Iran” or “cap and trade” — even when they don’t.

That’s not much of a shocker, of course. The real surprise is what happens after these same individuals are asked to explain how these policy ideas work: they become more moderate in their political views — either in support of such policies or against them. In fact, not only do their attitudes change, but so does their behavior. In one of our experiments, for example, after attempting to explain how various policy ideas would actually work, people became less likely to donate to organizations that supported the positions they had initially favored.

Interestingly, asking people to justify their position — rather than asking them to explain the mechanisms by which a policy would work — doesn’t tend to soften their political views. When we asked participants to state the reasons they were for or against a policy position, their initial attitudes held firm. (Other researchers have found much the same thing: merely discussing an issue often makes people more extreme, not less.)

Why, then, does having to explain an opinion often end up changing it? The answer may have to do with a kind of revelatory trigger mechanism: asking people to “unpack” complex systems — getting them to articulate how something might work in real life — forces them to confront their lack of understanding.

This is probably the biggest single thing that keeps me blogging - having to think through my instinctive reactions to various news stories (and justify them to some very smart folks who disagree with me) may not keep me honest, but it does force me to think a little harder as opposed to indulging my beautiful and natural predilection for knee jerk reactions.

Posted by Cassandra at February 5, 2013 06:12 AM

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They can take my cats from my cold dead arms. Plus, my girls are inside cats anyway so the only wildlife in danger of being killed is whatever sneaks in.

Posted by: MikeD at February 5, 2013 08:42 AM

I actually like cats :p

Can't live with them (their fur makes me itch) but I like them and they generally just love me.

I haven't figured out whether their affection for me is based on genuine liking or the knowledge that simply touching my face after rubbing their ears generally ends badly :p

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2013 09:16 AM

Also, FWIW, Sausagio the Immensely Important Weiner Beast used to bring us birds he had dispatched, lest they peck our eyes out or whatever mayhem it is birds plot when perching in trees.

So I suspect cats are just more efficient.

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2013 09:17 AM

Living in The Old Dominion--and having served in her state government--It is truly a trip, particularly around "Session time" which is now.

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at February 5, 2013 10:06 AM

Can local law enforcement pull you over on the Blue Ridge Parkway? I've only ever seen Federal rangers up there. Since it's all Park Service land, borded by Forest Department land for the most part, I was under the impression it was under strictly Federal jurisdiction.

However, for some reason I'm quite sure that you are exactly the right person to ask about what kinds of speeding tickets one can obtain on the Parkway. :)

Posted by: Grim at February 5, 2013 11:05 AM

Actually (and possibly embarrassingly, though such exploits are largely a relic of our misspent youth), I wasn't thinking of speeding violations :p

But I'm pretty sure that state troopers pull people over on the Blue Ridge parkway. Park police may also do that, but they're not the only ones who are out there patrolling.

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2013 11:11 AM

Actually (and possibly embarrassingly, though such exploits are largely a relic of our misspent youth), I wasn't thinking of speeding violations :p

Were you assignating in the backseat with your husbands?


Posted by: MikeD at February 5, 2013 11:48 AM

Were you assignating in the backseat with your husbands?

For lack of an apostr.... DAGNABBIT!!!! :)

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2013 12:11 PM

Oh, I see. Well, in that case, there are some very nice trails along the Parkway that lead into that poorly patrolled, lightly traveled Forest Service land.

Posted by: Grim at February 5, 2013 12:38 PM

For lack of an apostr.... DAGNABBIT!!!! :)

Thank you once again for letting me into your blog to kid around. You've no idea how much my day is brightened by interacting with you folks!

Posted by: MikeD at February 5, 2013 12:43 PM

"DAGNABBIT!!!! :)"

Hey, at least you got the 'n' that time....
*snnnort snnnort*

Posted by: DL Sly at February 5, 2013 02:21 PM

You've no idea how much my day is brightened by interacting with you folks!

Actually I do, b/c I feel exactly the same about you all :)

I need to make time to laugh more often. Lately I have allowed my job (and the political idiocy spd alluded to yesterday) to suck all the fun out of my life. I will really try not to OD on the serious stuff in future.

Thanks guys. Yeah, even DL Sly when she busts my chops daily :p

Posted by: Cass at February 5, 2013 02:25 PM

Oh, I see. Well, in that case, there are some very nice trails along the Parkway that lead into that poorly patrolled, lightly traveled Forest Service land.

One of my fondest memories involves a rowboat, one of my many husbands, and a Maryland state park...


Posted by: Just Call Me "Nature Girl" at February 5, 2013 02:27 PM

Making waves?

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at February 6, 2013 08:52 AM

My cats are lazy beasts. Puff, the newest addition to the Exterior Guard, gets squirrels, snakes and chipmunks.

Birds are allowed to steal their food with impunity. I have filled bird feeders on the porch, but the feather brains prefer the dry cat food. Go figger.

Posted by: Puff's Mom at February 13, 2013 08:22 PM