Sunday, February 28, 2010

Asylum Street Spankers: "Winning The War On The Drugs"

OKAY Who is gonna join me, March 26, at the Cooperage, in ALBUQUERQUE, for the one, the ONLY, the ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS? Two tickets cost me just over $40 in advance. The ticket agent says they have plenty of tickets left. Oh, by the way, I need a date...

"Two Feet Of Snow In Boston"

DOTOF to Joanne Cannata-Kelly @ FB...Gives a whole new twist to 'getting cold feet,' nest paw?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ethics of Being A Dog: Pooches Play "Fair"

Anyone who has had a multi-dog household knows this.
Looking for the roots of human morality in the animal kingdom? Focus on canines, who know how to play fair
By MARC BEKOFF and Jessica Pierce

Every dog owner knows a pooch can learn the house rules—and when she breaks one, her subsequent groveling is usually ingratiating enough to ensure quick forgiveness. But few people have stopped to ask why dogs have such a keen sense of right and wrong. Chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates regularly make the news when researchers, logically looking to our closest relatives for traits similar to our own, uncover evidence of their instinct for fairness. But our work has suggested that wild canine societies may be even better analogues for early hominid groups—and when we study dogs, wolves and coyotes, we discover behaviors that hint at the roots of human morality.

Morality, as we define it in our book Wild Justice, is a suite of interrelated other-regarding behaviors that cultivate and regulate social interactions. These behaviors, including altruism, tolerance, forgiveness, reciprocity and fairness, are readily evident in the egalitarian way wolves and coyotes play with one another. Canids (animals in the dog family) follow a strict code of conduct when they play, which teaches pups the rules of social engagement that allow their societies to succeed. Play also builds trusting relationships among pack members, which enables divisions of labor, dominance hierarchies and cooperation in hunting, raising young, and defending food and territory. Because this social organization closely resembles that of early humans (as anthropologists and other experts believe it existed), studying canid play may offer a glimpse of the moral code that allowed our ancestral societies to grow and flourish.

Playing by the Rules
When canids and other animals play, they use actions such as vigorous biting, mounting and body slamming that could be easily misinterpreted by the participants. Years of painstaking video analyses by one of us (Bekoff) and his students show, however, that individuals carefully negotiate play, following four general rules to prevent play from escalating into fighting.

Communicate clearly. Animals announce that they want to play and not fight or mate. Canids use a bow to solicit play, crouching on their forelimbs while standing on their hind legs (above). Bows are used almost exclusively during play and are highly stereotyped—that is, they always look the same—so the message “Come play with me” or “I still want to play” is clear. Even when an individual follows a play bow with seemingly aggressive actions such as baring teeth, growling or biting, his companions demonstrate submission or avoidance only around 15 percent of the time, which suggests they trust the bow’s message that whatever follows is meant in fun. Trust in one another’s honest communication is vital for a smoothly functioning social group.

Mind your manners. Animals consider their play partners’ abilities and engage in self-handicapping and role reversing to create and maintain equal footing. For instance, a coyote might not bite her play partner as hard as she can, handicapping herself to keep things fair. And a dominant pack member might perform a role reversal, rolling over on her back (a sign of submission that she would never offer during real aggression) to let her lower-status play partner take a turn at “winning”. Human children also behave this way when they play, for instance, taking turns overpowering each other in a mock wrestling match. [For more on childhood play, see “The Serious Need for Play,” by Melinda Wenner; Scientific American Mind, February/March 2009.] By keeping things fair in this manner, every member of the group can play with every other member, building bonds that keep the group cohesive and strong.

Admit when you are wrong. Even when everyone wants to keep things fair, play can sometimes get out of hand. When an animal misbehaves or accidentally hurts his play partner, he apologizes—just like a human would. After an intense bite, a bow sends the message, “Sorry I bit you so hard—this is still play regardless of what I just did. Don’t leave; I’ll play fair.” For play to continue, the other individual must forgive the wrongdoing. And forgiveness is almost always offered; understanding and tolerance are abundant during play as well as in daily pack life.

Be honest. An apology, like an invitation to play, must be sincere—individuals who continue to play unfairly or send dishonest signals will quickly find themselves ostracized. This has far greater consequences than simply reduced playtime; for instance, Bekoff’s long-term field research shows that juvenile coyotes who do not play fair often end up leaving their pack and are up to four times more likely to die than those individuals who remain with others. Violating social norms, established during play, is not good for perpetuating one’s genes.

Fair play, then, can be understood as an evolved adaptation that allows individuals to form and maintain social bonds. Canids, like humans, form intricate networks of social relationships and live by rules of conduct that maintain a stable society, which is necessary to ensure the survival of each individual. Basic rules of fairness guide social play, and similar rules are the foundation for fairness among adults. This moral intelligence, so evident in both wild canines and in domesticated dogs, probably closely resembles that of our early human ancestors. And it may have been just this sense of right and wrong that allowed human societies to flourish and spread across the world.
There's a reason I prefer the company of canids to that of humans: No dog ever told a lie, or cheated on a deal, or stole anything...

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Friend's Ferret Frolics

Allison, of Firstdraft, has a couple of them:
"I won this ugly stuffed animal in a video arcade. Gave it to Bucky, because he doesn't care what it looks like. He's only interested in beating it up."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pot Prohibition: Is This The Beginning Of The End??

Ethan Nadelmann is part of's Changemakers network, comprised of leading voices for social change. Mr Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Even I can't believe the way that the marijuana issue is opening up right now.

There's been steady progress on medical marijuana -- as evidenced by the Obama administration's new guidelines directing federal drug agents not to arrest legitimate patients and suppliers in medical marijuana states ( which field agents are apparently ignoring, wholesale--W). Then there's the recent victories in Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington D.C., -- not to mention the medical marijuana bills making progress in numerous other states around the country. Last month's ABC News/Washington Post poll reported a record 81 percent support for medical marijuana. If ballot initiatives could be held in all 50 states, voters would approve it in all but a small handful.

What's even more remarkable is the recent jump in support for taxing and regulating marijuana. I was pleasantly stunned by the Gallup poll late last year finding that support for making marijuana legal jumped from 36% in 2005 to 44% in 2009. Fifty-four percent of Democrats, 53% of people living in the West, and roughly half of Independents and 18-49 year-olds now support making marijuana legal. In the past year, legislative proposals to tax and regulate marijuana have prompted hearings in California, Washington, and New Hampshire -- and California voters will have their say this November at the ballot box.

What does all this mean?

Despite such progress, I don't expect bold leadership from the Obama administration, mostly because presidents rarely provide any sort of leadership on hot-button issues involving cultural conflict, personal behavior and morality. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that Obama expresses concern that 750,000 people are arrested each year for doing exactly the same thing he did as a young man -- possessing a small amount of marijuana. (The California Jailer's union opposes decrim/legalization measures because that would decrease the number of incarcerations, and thereby reduce the number of guards needed to oppress them--W)

Still, though, Obama has already made a difference in two critical ways. First, his candid discussion of his own experiences using marijuana set a new standard for honesty. Second, the Department of Justice's new guidelines on medical marijuana opened up significant political and legal space for states to get more deeply involved in regulating the otherwise illicit product. This move took the dialogue around medical marijuana to a new level of seriousness and sophistication, and effectively invited an emerging public conversation about making marijuana legally available for non-medical use.

Neither the administration nor Congress is ready for a serious dialogue on ending marijuana prohibition, though. Congress is even stymied when it comes to medical marijuana -- many elected officials still insist they can't spend their political capital on it. With support for medical marijuana at 81 percent, one has to wonder -- just how popular does something have to be before elected officials are willing to stand up to the vested interests behind the war on drugs?

Since the public is so far ahead of national policymakers, I think the best we can hope for is that the federal government allows change to continue bubbling up from the state and local levels. That's the nature of movements for individual freedom and social justice -- the people lead, elected officials follow grudgingly.

It's only a matter of time before marijuana is taxed, controlled, and regulated in the United States. The tragedy is that in the meantime tens of billions of dollars will be wasted, and millions of people will be harmed by our marijuana laws. It's up to us -- as conscientious members of society who care about science, compassion, health, and human rights -- to make sure that the time comes as soon as possible.

Stay tuned for my next post -- when I'll talk about what you can do to hasten marijuana reform in your own town.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Somebody's Always Trying to "Tell the Truth" About Weed

There are actual, taxonomical differences betwee "marijuana" and "hemp," bot otherwise this is the 'true gen':

Herr Diesel created his wonderful engine to burn hemp-oil.

By the way: At Mavericks', Saturday, "Twiggy" Baker on a 50-footer (You have NO IDEA how brave this is!):

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yesterday, at Maverick's, Half-Moon Bay, CA

The Winnah: South African Chris Bertish drops in while Skin-dog Kenny Collins looks on during the final heat, held on a swiftly-falling tide in 40-50 foot waves, over a reef, almost a mile off-shore, about 30 miles south of San Francisco. Mavericks is just about the only wave of its size that surfers can catch without being towed up to speed behind a jet-ski. See more fotos from the day here, courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Great White sharks are known to frequent those waters.

Mav's, as it's colloquially called, is an invitational. Only 24 of the top big-wave surfers in the world are invited any year. The contest is only run when the peaks at the reef are over 20-25 feet; this was only the seventh time the contest had ever been held. All the commentators and the surfers they talked to agreed that this was the biggest surf in which the contest had EVER been held.

Qualifying is settled settled in heats. Four prelims heats are 45 minutes each. Surfers are scored on their best two waves within the 45-minute time frame. Three surfers from each qualifier advance to the semis, and three from each semi advance to the finals. The purse this year was the largest ever: $150,000, with first place earning $50K.

Judges at Mavericks are renowned for rewarding late, critical drops down the almost vertical faces of these behemoth swells that pitch up onto the off-shore reef. This puts a premium on courage, but also occasions some hellacious wipe-outs. People have died taking off late at Mavericks.

The first qualifying heat went off on a rising tide with HUGE waves, at 8 am, local time. Probably the two or three best waves of the day were ridden in the qualifiers, including the only ride scored a 10 (on a 10-point scale). The final ( 7th) heat was launched at 2 pm, and concluded at about 3:25, after being extended because the receding tide had made catching and taking off on the waves a much dicier proposition than in the deeper water of the morning: with only 15 minutes of original time remaining, three of the six surfers in the final heat had not yet caught a single ride.

But the real action in the heats, and arguably of the day, occurred on the beach when, during the course of the second qualifier, the advancing tide, propelled by the huge waves, unexpectedly washed OVER the sand-spit where many spectators were watching, taking down many vendors' booths, and nearly dropping the commentating team perched on scaffolds above the beach into the drink. There were minor injuries to spectators to match the 'carnage' in the water as surfer after surfer suffered spectacular falls in the impact zones of the monstrous waves.

Some of the waves--mainly the ones which went untried--were 40-50 feet down the faces. Insanely big, strong, powerful, crashing roaring, sweeping walls of water. I am a surfer, though my courage pretty much is exhausted at about 10 feet. There is no such thing as an 'ex-surfer.' There are only surfers nearer to or further from the beach.

You could say "Surfers are swell people."

P.S.: The guys doing voice for the vid-stream from the scaffolding did a really good job under difficult circumstances. They caught a fair amount of static and abuse in the comments, but they did fine: over and over, they illustrated anothjer of my "dichos": There is no such thing as an "outside" joke.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Photo courtesy of BAD RAP Inc, a pit-bull rescue group doing great work in the Oakland (CA) area...This is BAD RAP grad Boris.


If there were gonna ever be such a thing, I guess Hawai'i'd be the place...

(A moonbow photographed from the edge of Haleakala crater on the island of Maui. Photograph: Wally Pacholka,

Via The Guardian:
It is an image worthy of a science fiction film: a rainbow, photographed in the middle of the night, glimmers in the foreground while behind it a brilliant star rises above the horizon. The effect is exotic and unworldly. Nevertheless, the picture is very much an earthly affair. It was taken by photographer Wally Pacholka while he was standing at the edge of Haleakala crater on the island of Maui in the Hawaii archipelago.

As Pachokla explains, that band of colours is, in reality, a moonbow. Like a rainbow, its daylight equivalent, a moonbow is produced when light is broken up into its constituent colours as it passes through water droplets. In both cases, the source of light is the same: the Sun. In the case of the rainbow, sunlight produces its effect directly. In the case of the moonbow, however, that sunlight is first reflected off the surface of the moon and then shines back down to Earth.

"A moonbow is just like a rainbow but is caused by the moon reflecting off rain mist at a certain angle," says Pacholka. "I was very fortunate to see this. But in a sense I created this fortune as I was always out there: I drove up the crater mountain that night but also about every night, even going twice the night before – early evening to shoot the evening sky then back again in early morning to shoot the morning sky."

As to that mysterious star rising above the horizon, it turns out to be the planet Mars which is currently making one of its closest approaches to Earth. The Red Planet is currently around a 100 million km distant from us and shines like a brilliant red beacon as it rises in the east on its journey across the night sky. Hence the impact of this photograph: a distinctive planetary display captured beside a rare moonbow

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Leave Our Dogs The FUCK Alone!

All over the country, cities and other venues have enacted laws and rules essentially outlawing dogs classified as "pit-bulls" due to a reputation--overwhelmingly undeserved--that such dogs have been accorded for aggression and violence.

But the truth of the matter is somewhat different. Pitties aren't stigmatized because of their allegedly violent proclivities. Pitties are stigmatized because they were the breed of choice among "urban gangsta/thug" culture who might train their dogs as weapons of intimidation. It's not the dogs that folks want to get rid of, it's the 'undesirables' who own them.

Pit-bull panic is yet another outgrowth of racial fear and division...

There is a lovely, plaintive appeal to the press to lay off our dogs here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Meet "Katie": This big beautiful baby needs a HOME, please!

It is gratifying to read the comments along with the vid. I am entirely certain Katie will find--possibly already has found=--a home. But there are so many dumb people and stupid laws that there will always be others. Keep an open heart, people...