Mankind Succeeded Because of Dogs

This is one of the most interesting articles I have ever read.

Long story short: Mankind may be around because of our domestication of dogs. And our eyes.

Read on.


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Do the Eyes Have It?

Dog domestication may have helped humans thrive while Neandertals declined
We all know the adage that dogs are man’s best friend. And we’ve all heard heartwarming stories about dogs who save their owners—waking them during a fire or summoning help after an accident. Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows the amazing, almost inexpressible warmth of a dog’s companionship and devotion. But it just might be that dogs have done much, much more than that for humankind. They may have saved not only individuals but also our whole species, by “domesticating” us while we domesticated them.
One of the classic conundrums in paleoanthropology is why Neandertals went extinct while modern humans survived in the same habitat at the same time. (The phrase “modern humans,” in this context, refers to humans who were anatomically—if not behaviorally—indistinguishable from ourselves.) The two species overlapped in Europe and the Middle East between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago; at the end of that period, Neandertals were in steep decline and modern humans were thriving. What happened?
A stunning study that illuminates this decisive period was recently published in Science by Paul Mellars and Jennifer French of Cambridge University. They argue, based on a meta-analysis of 164 archaeological sites that date to the period when modern humans and Neandertals overlapped in the Dordogne region of southwest France, that the modern-human population grew so rapidly that it overwhelmed Neandertals with its sheer numbers.
Because not all the archaeological sites in the study contained clearly identifiable remains of modern humans or Neandertals, Mellars and French made a common assumption: that sites containing stone tools of the Mousterian tradition had been created by Neandertals, and those containing more sophisticated and generally later stone tools of the Upper Paleolithic were made by modern humans. This link between tool and toolmaker is well supported by sites that do contain hominin remains, but there is nothing inherent in a stone tool that tells you who made it—not even if you find a skeleton right next to it. Still, stone tools are one of the best available indicators of which species—modern human or Neandertal—inhabited a particular location.
Mellars and French compared the number and sizes of Neandertal and modern-human archaeological sites, as well as the density of tools and the weight per square meter of prey animals, represented by fossils, in those sites. They standardized their results for 1,000-year periods to compensate for the varying amounts of time that the different locations had been occupied. In every respect, modern humans surpassed Neandertals. In fact, the greater success of modern humans was so clear that, according to Mellars and French’s calculations, the human population increased tenfold over the 10,000-year overlap period. Modern humans thrived and Neandertals did not—even though Neandertals had lived in the European habitat for about 250,000 years before modern humans “invaded.” Why weren’t Neandertals better adapted to their environment than the newcomers?
There is no shortage of hypotheses. Some favor climate change, others a modern-human advantage derived from the use of more advanced hunting weapons or greater social cohesion. Now, several important and disparate studies are coming together to suggest another answer, or at least another good hypothesis: The dominance of modern humans could have been in part a consequence of domesticating dogs—possibly combined with a small, but key, change in human anatomy that made people better able to communicate with dogs.

Skulls and Souls

Until 2009, dogs were believed to have been domesticated about 17,000 years ago, long after Neandertals were already extinct. But then Mietje Germonpré of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and her colleagues developed a rigorous statistical method for identifying which fossil canid skulls belonged to wolves and which to dogs—the latter distinguished by their shorter, broader snouts and braincases. As I described in an earlierMarginalia column (“The Woof at the Door,” July–August 2009) the team used this technique to identify three Paleolithic skulls as domestic dogs. The earliest was from the Belgian cave of Goyet and dated to about 32,000 years ago.
Some critics of that study pointed to the long, 15,000-year interlude between those early dog skulls and the next oldest confirmed specimens. But recent discoveries have begun to fill the gap and lend credence to the ancient association between humans and large canids. In early 2012, Germonpré’s team published a study of nine additional canid skulls, three of which represented ancient dogs from Předmostí in the Czech Republic, a site dated to about 27,000 years ago. Another canid skull with many doglike features was recently studied by Nikolai Ovodov, of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and his team. It comes from Razboinichya Cave, Siberia, and is dated to about 29,000 years ago. Although this team did not use the same powerful statistical techniques as Germonpré’s group, they identified the Razboinichya skull as an “incipient dog”—an animal in an early stage of the domestication process.
None of these ancient dog skulls date exactly to the period of modern human–Neandertal overlap, but the domestication process must have been underway even before the first identifiable dog entered the fossil record. The rapidly developing consensus is that dogs were domesticated during the period when both modern humans and Neandertals lived in Europe. So far, all of these early dogs are from modern-human sites. Several lines of evidence suggest that dogs and wolves were especially revered by those humans.
2012-05MargShipmanFA.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageOne of the Předmostí dogs was found with its jaw and cranium still attached to each other in a lifelike position and with a large piece of bone wedged in its mouth. The bone must have been inserted shortly after the dog’s death, while muscles and ligaments still held the jaw to the cranium. The team suggests that in the past, as now, valued hunting dogs were honored and perhaps buried with ritual.
Another indicator of the importance of dogs was that two canine teeth from dogs or wolves at Předmostí were modified to be worn as personal adornments. Rarely did Paleolithic people make jewelry out of parts of food animals, so the high frequency of canid teeth drilled for use as pendants at Předmostí and other Paleolithic sites indicates that they were not considered food. Like humans, canids are very rarely depicted in Paleolithic cave art, also suggesting that the cave artists might have regarded canids as unusually close to humans.
There is something else odd about the early canid skulls: Forty percent of the 20 dog and wolf crania found at Předmostí have been pierced. Citing evidence from northern hunting peoples around the world who ceremonially open the braincases of slain carnivores, Germonpré and her colleagues surmise that the perforation of the Paleolithic dog skulls may have had a ritual significance. “At Předmostí,” the team wrote,
the large number of perforated braincases of large canids and the dog skull holding a bone between its front teeth hint at a specific relationship between humans and large canids, including the possibility of the existence of a wolf/dog ritual that could be connected with the sending of souls.

Earning Their Keep

Would a good dog really have been so important that it would inspire ritual significance—and give modern humans a crucial edge over Neandertals? We can’t observe how ancient, but anatomically modern, humans used dogs in their daily life, but there are some interesting possibilities. We know from their bones that the Paleolithic dogs were very large, with a body mass of at least 32 kilograms and a shoulder height of at least 61 centimeters, about the size of a modern German shepherd. Germonpré and her colleagues suggest that these early dogs might have been beasts of burden. They cite ethnographic examples of peoples like the Blackfeet and Hidatsa of the American West, who bred very large, strong dogs specifically for hauling travois or strapped-on packs.
All but one of the six Paleolithic dog sites that have so far been identified preserve large quantities of mammoth bone which, with meat attached, must have been lugged from the kill site to where the group was living. If the dogs carried the meat, humans would have saved a lot of energy, so each kill would have provided a greater net gain in food—even after feeding the dogs. Additional food generally has marked effects on the health of a group. Better-fed females can have more babies, can provide them with more milk and can have babies at shorter intervals. Before long, using pack dogs could have caused the human population to increase.
Dogs may also have contributed more directly to human hunting success. To discover how big a difference dogs could make, Vesa Ruusila and Mauri Pesonen of the Finnish Game and Fisheries Institute investigated what may be the closest easily studied analog to a mammoth hunt: the Finnish moose hunt. Finns use large dogs such as Norwegian elkhounds or Finnish spitzes to find moose and keep them in place by barking until humans can approach and shoot them. In hunting groups of fewer than 10 people, the average carcass weight per hunter without dogs was 8.4 kilograms per day. With dogs, the yield went up to 13.1 kilograms per hunter per day—an increase of 56 percent.
2012-05MargShipmanFB.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageStudies of modern hunting peoples who use smaller dogs and pursue smaller game also indicate the advantages of working with dogs. Jeremy Koster and Ken Tankersley of the University of Cincinnati studied hunting among the Mayangna and Miskito peoples in Nicaragua. About 85 percent of the mammals taken by the villagers involved the use of dogs. Male dogs—which were larger—brought in more game than females. Male dogs contributed, on average, to the capture of more than 20 kilograms of meat each month, and the most successful of those dogs helped land more than 100 kilograms per month. The most proficient female brought in more than 35 kilograms per month. These dogs weighed, on average, 11 to 12 kilograms, and yet some contributed much more than their body weight in meat each month.
The dogs improved hunting success by increasing the rate at which the hunters encountered game. Finding game “is often the hardest skill to learn for human hunters,” Koster and Tankersley write. The encounter rate for agoutis—rodents weighing 2 to 8 kilograms—was nine times better if dogs were used; for armadillos, the encounter rate was six times better with dogs. The most successful hunts of all involved killing tapirs using both dogs and firearms.
Karen Lupo of Washington State University conducted a similar study among the Bofi and Aka forest hunters of the Central African Republic. These foragers hunt with spears, bows, crossbows and nets; most of their prey animals weigh less than 10 kilograms each. Although dogs had little effect on the proportion of successful hunts, they markedly reduced the time required to make a kill. In hunts that captured giant pouched rats, for instance, dogs reduced the amount of time expended before a kill by 41 percent (29 minutes with dogs versus 49.5 minutes without dogs). Similarly, when porcupine was caught, dogs reduced the time before a kill by 57 percent (44 minutes versus 101.33 minutes). Faster hunts lowered the energy expended by humans during hunting and increased the yield. The dogs were not treated as pets or companions, and the very idea of doing so was considered laughable by Lupo’s informants. Lupo titled her paper “A dog is for hunting.”
Domesticating dogs clearly improves humans’ hunting success and efficiency—whether the game (or the dog) is large or small. The same must have been true in the Paleolithic. If Neandertals did not have domestic dogs and anatomically modern humans did, these hunting companions could have made all the difference in the modern human–Neandertal competition.
I can’t help wondering whether the process of domesticating dogs was connected to changes in human anatomy and communication abilities. Domestication is a two-way street, as we know from examples such as the genetic changes that make adult humans able to digest milk. Those mutations arose several times in different human populations after the domestication of cattle. I have no evidence that the change I am about to discuss did or did not occur between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. But it might have.

Wide-Eyed Cooperation

2012-05MargShipmanFC.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageA study by Hiromi Kobayashi and Shiro Kohshima of the Tokyo Institute of Technology showed that modern humans are unique among extant primates in having highly visible white sclerae surrounding the colored irises of their eyes, as well as eyelids that expose much of the sclerae. In other primates, the dark sclerae, similarly colored skin and concealing eyelids tend to mask the direction in which the animal is looking, according to the Japanese team. In humans, the white sclerae and open eyelids make the direction of a person’s gaze visible from a distance, particularly if that glance is directed in a more or less horizontal direction. The changes in the human eye may be adaptations to enhance the effectiveness of the gaze signal.
Michael Tomasello and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, developed this idea as the “cooperative eye hypothesis.” They suggested that cooperation among humans was facilitated by the ability to recognize where others were looking. Apes will follow gaze less often than human infants, they found. If the direction of gaze and the direction of the head conflicted, apes tended to follow head direction. In a humorous aside, the researchers noted that they tried their experiment with 14 chimpanzees, 4 gorillas, 4 bonobos and 5 orangutans—but dropped the results of tests on three chimps and all five orangutans because they “did not pay attention to the gaze cues sufficiently for their skills to be reliably assessed.” Following gaze was apparently not a high priority to the apes.
2012-05MargShipmanFD.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageThe mutation causing white sclerae is universal in humans, but it turns up occasionally in apes, too. In decades of observations at Gombe National Park in Tanzania, Jane Goodall observed two chimps, probably brothers, who had white sclerae. A third, female chimp developed white sclerae as an adult. But the trait has not spread or reappeared in that population. The advantage of the white sclerae must be related to something that ancient humans did commonly and chimps don’t do or do rarely. Although chimps hunt small prey, often cooperatively, meat makes up less than 2 percent of their diet, whereas Paleolithic humans hunted much larger game that apparently provided a significant part of their diet. Obviously, silent communication among humans would be advantageous for hunting in groups. But there is another skilled gaze-reader: the domestic dog.
A dog will follow the gaze of a videotaped human if the human first attracts the dog’s attention by speaking to it and looking at it, according to results published by Ernõ Téglás, of the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and his colleagues. Indeed, dogs perform as well as human infants at following the gaze of a speaker in tests in which the speaker’s head is held still.
Ádám Miklósi of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, and his team tested dogs and wolves, and found that dogs were far more attentive to human faces than were wolves, even socialized wolves. Although wolves excel at some gaze-following tasks, perhaps suggesting a preadaptation for communicating with humans, dogs tend to look at human faces for cues and wolves do not. Miklósi’s team believes this major behavioral difference is the result of selective breeding during domestication.
Another way of looking at this phenomenon is that the white sclerae became universal among humans because it enabled them to communicate better not only with each other but also with dogs. Once dogs could read a human gaze signal, they would have been even more useful as hunting partners. No genetic study has yet confirmed the prevalence or absence of white sclerae in Paleolithic modern humans or in Neandertals. But if the white sclera mutation occurred more often among the former—perhaps by chance—this feature could have enhanced human-dog communication and promoted domestication. Although some genetic analyses have suggested that modern humans and Neandertals interbred, even the highest estimates of cross-breeding involve very low levels of genetic exchange that might have been inadequate to spread the white sclera trait among Neandertals.
Humans love to look into their dogs’ eyes to “read” their emotions. Dogs apparently feel the same. Maybe—just maybe—this reciprocal communication was instrumental in the survival of our species.

Bibliography

  • Germonpré, M., M. Lázničková-Galetová and M. Sablin. 2012. Palaeolithic dog skulls at the Gravettian Předmostí site, the Czech Republic. Journal of Archaeological Science 39:84–202.
  • Goodall, J. 1986. The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
  • Kobayashi, H., and S. Kohshima. 2001. Unique morphology of the human eye and its adaptive meaning: Comparative studies on external morphology of the primate eye. Journal of Human Evolution 40:419–435.
  • Koster, J., and K. Tankersley. 2012. Heterogeneity of hunting ability and nutritional status among domestic dogs in lowland Nicaragua. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. 109:E463–E470.
  • Lupo, K. 2011. A dog is for hunting. In Ethnozooarchaeology, eds. U. Albarella and A. Trentacoste, pp. 4–12. Oxford: Oxbow Press.
  • Ovodov, N. D., et al. 2011. A 33,000-year-old incipient dog from the Altai Mountains of Siberia: Evidence of the earliest domestication disrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum. PLoS ONE 6(7):e22821.
  • Ruusila, V., and M. Pesonen. 2004. Interspecific cooperation in human (Homo sapiens) hunting: The benefit of a barking dog (Canis familiaris).Annales Zoologici Fennici 41:545–549.
  • Téglás, E., et al. 2012. Dogs’ gaze following is tuned to human communicative signals. Current Biology 22:1–4.
  • Tomasello, M., B. Hare and J. C. Lehmann. 2007. Reliance on head versus eyes in the gaze following of great apes and human infants: The cooperative eye hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution 52:314–320.
 


Asteroid Mining Is Coming Soon

Planetary Sciences has announced that it is already up and running (with about 25 employees) and looking for growth in their Asteroid mining business.

There have also been a lot of stupid headlines floating around ($1 Trillion Company etc) because of the immense value on earth of all the rocks in space.

The point (and why this is the first company to try it) is that it is very expensive to get minerals from space to earth - precisely why we are not already doing it.

But Planetary Sciences has a smart business model: they will start by building and selling a small yet effective space telescope. They will use it to look for profitable rocks. However, they will also sell it to others for use in whatever way a space telescope is needed (probably the same way they use telescopes in NYC - looking at your neighbors).

GOOD NEWS! Morgan Will Offer Three Wheeler in the US



Often, us in the US can't get access to lots of the cool and quirky vehicles coming out of the UK (which is really all the UK automotive industry has left at this point). The reason is that very few of them meet US crash test and emissions regulations (there are rules in the UK which let small producers skirt these regulations - in the US a company like Morgan would have to follow the same rules as Toyota).

But in this case.. the Morgan tricycle counts as a motorcycle (because of that odd 3 = 2 regulatory stance in the US), and so has to meet motorcycle safety regulations which... umm... means it has to have brakes and a headlight.

But the Morgan is so much more - its freaking awesome.

Morgan Three-wheeler Picture
One of the coolest vehicles ever
There will be three US dealerships - but the big news is that you can actually get one. Sure, it's a $40,000 toy - but I would buy this over a Porsche 911 in a second. 

Supercars in China are Blowing Up

This is not good. Supercars in China are hitting massive speculation - selling for 4-6x what their prices are in the west. One of the last Aston Martin One77's recently sold for $6 million. Which is just stupid, considering it is already massively overpriced (it's not a real supercar like the Veyron - it's a hotted up DB9 with a carbon fiber body).
This car is not worth $6 million.

What comes after rampant speculation by the very wealthy on items of conspicuous consumption? Usually a huge crash in the market.



Here is the article:

Imported premium vehicles in China are sold at prices much higher than those in the Western countries, largely because of dealers' windfall profits and speculative behavior amid slower economic growth, insiders and market watchers noted Thursday.

The comments came as a number of ultra-luxury cars showcased at the Auto China 2012 were sold out Thursday when the exhibition first opened to the public.

A customized ONE-77 supercar by British luxury sports car maker Aston Martin was sold for 38 million yuan ($6.03 million) after the company unveiled three handcrafted Dragon 88 China Limited Editions, Aston Martin confirmed to the Global Times Thursday.

However, the model's pricing in the US and UK only ranges from approximately $1.5 million to $2 million, according to a December 2011 report by American magazine Car and Driver.

Meanwhile, both a Vitesse super sports car made by French car manufacturer Automobiles E. Bugatti and a medium-sized Koenigsegg Agera R sports car by Swedish car manufacturer Koenigsegg were presold for around 40 million yuan each before the show's first public day, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

The two cars are separately priced from $2.5 million and $1.6 million, according to auto news portal emunds.com.

Luxury cars in China carry price tags that are double, and sometimes three- to five-times higher, the prices in the American and European markets, said Su Hui, vice president of the auto market division of the China Automobile Dealers Association.

China currently imposes 25 percent tariff, 17 percent value-added tax, and up to 40 percent goods and services tax on imported cars, according to the General Administration of Customs.

However, Su believes these are not the leading factors behind the relatively high prices of luxury cars in China; it is because of "the higher margins generated by dealers and official sales companies."

"Profits are expected to stand at a higher rate than 50 percent while the average margin of passenger vehicles in the country fell to less than 20 percent," Su told the Global Times. "Lucrative pricing strategies may trigger buyers' demand and investors' confidence in tackling the sluggish auto growth, but they could lead the industry onto an unhealthy and unsustainable path."

Varying prices and profits are quite common in all markets, according to James Chao, director of Asia Pacific research at IHS Automotive Consulting.

"China is not immune to the system of demand and supply," Chao told the Global Times Thursday. "Ultra-luxury cars are always appealing to the high-income bracket where people are less price sensitive."

The average supercar buyer in China is a 25 to 35-year-old male, according to Namrita Chow, an Analyst with IHS Automotive.

"The country's new rich like to show off grandeur and consider the most expensive as the best," Wang Liusheng, an auto analyst with China Merchants Securities, told the Global Times Thursday.

"Besides, they're driven to higher spending due to limited investment channels at the moment," Wang said.

Friendster Will Be Bigger Than Facebook

Friendster was the first, and I mean the first, social media site. It was Facebook before there was Facebook... until Facebook ripped them off. Most Americans probably think Friendster is just a plot device for "The Social Network" at this point, and probably have not heard the name other than that since about 2003.

But.... this is the new Friendster, and one day it is going to be bigger than Facebook:
Image

Yes, its a gaming site. But not just any gaming site. It was acquired by e-payment provider MOL Global in 2009. This led to its reincarnation as a top online gaming destination for countries such as India, Indonesia and Malaysia. It just emerged from a new beta... and is pulling in a lot of users. Its remaining vestiges of its social networking past -- you can still add friends, after all -- are gamified with reward points. Moreover, owner MOL Global has added e-payments to the mix, letting users buy Friendster Coins to purchase virtual goods. Given predictions that the Asian gaming community will exceed 1 billion by 2016, the site's future is looking rosier than ever.

One day, it might even be bigger than Facebook.

GOP in NH Supports Legalizing Weed, Dem Gov Against

Here's an odd one: the Republican controlled legislature in NH has passed a bill allowing those with a medical marijuana prescription to grow their own.

The Democratic governor has stated he is going to veto the bill.

But see - here is the difference (and what a lot of national news stories like this one from Reason ignore): NH Republicans are more or less libertarians. They believe in small government across the board. This means they should (and do) support a bill which lets people do whatever the hell they want (live free or die, woot woot).

Another Obama Bundler get's an Official Post

Quiz:
What's the fastest way to become a US Ambassador?
1) Lifetime of service in the state department
2) Prominent private citizen, strong member of national diaspora, spent significant time on public and private councils etc fostering connections between the two countries
3) Raise money for Obama

And... the 3's have it. By a mile.

Sad. This White House is completely for sale: Hope and Change indeed.


Major Obama ‘bundler’ nominated for Dutch ambassador’s post




D.C. lawyer Timothy Broas, who has funneled more money to the political campaigns of President Obama than nearly anyone else, last week was nominated by Mr. Obama to become the next U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands.
As a campaign “bundler,” Mr. Broas collected more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign, raising money from family members, colleagues and other wealthy associates. Four years ago, he assisted Mr. Obama’s successful bid for the presidency by raising between $200,000 and $500,000.
According to the Center for Responsive PoliticsMr. Broas becomes the latest of dozens of Obama “bundlers” who are already serving as ambassadors.
The fundraiser’s appointment was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.
This election cycle, 117 people have raised $500,000 or more each for the president’s re-election efforts — totaling at least $59 million.
Some 141 people have bundled between $200,000 and $500,000, or $30 million to $70 million, while 120 people have bundled $100,000 to $200,000, an analysis by The Washington Times showed.
Among new bundlers disclosed this month were figures as eclectic as spiritual healer Deepak Chopra and Robert Pohlad, of the family that owns the Minnesota Twins.
Fifteen people, including actor Tyler Perry, raised more than half a million dollars in three months alone, between January and March of this year. Bundlers typically collect $35,000 checks — the maximum allowed to the national party, plus $5,000 to a campaign committee — often from both husband and wife.
The list of Mr. Obama’s 532 bundlers for this year’s campaign is dominated by lawyers, financial professionals and Hollywood celebrities.
The Center for Public Integrity found that at least 250 bundlers, includingMr. Broas, have been invited to the White House, and at least 68 bundlers or their spouses have received administration appointments, ranging from advisory economic boards to humanities posts.
Mr. Broas is a partner at the law firm Winston and Strawn, and also serves as a member of the board of trustees of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, according to a White House statement.
In the past, not all of those who have been appointed to prestigious diplomatic posts after raising campaign funds have proven qualified for those jobs.
A State Department report tied 2008 bundler-turned-Bahamas Ambassador Nicole Avant to “dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement” and lengthy absences since she was appointed by President Obama, Foreign Policy magazine’s blog reported.
Mrs. Avant, who resigned from her Caribbean assignment in November, returned to her Beverly Hills, Calif., home and rejoined the ranks of Obama bundlers.
In a departure from his own precedent in 2008 as well as from standard practice for recent presidential campaigns, Mitt Romney, Mr. Obama’s likely opponent in November, has refused to release the names of his bundlers.

Obama the Unseemly

Great article from the WSJ: basically, it is getting pretty hard to support Obama, even for liberal papers. His handling of the economy has been idiotic. His personal rights track record is spotty. His corruption track record (how many fund raisers and lobbyists have official positions now? Over 100 I think) is terrible.

And he's an ass.

Read on


There's been a lot of talk of late about how "cool" Barack Obama supposedly is. But people are starting to notice the man has no class.
"Blue collar Democratic voters, stuck taking depressing 'staycations' because they can't afford gas and hotels, are resentful of the first family's 17 lavish vacations around the world and don't want their tax dollars paying for the Obamas' holidays, according to a new analysis of swing voters," reports the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard.
A group of Republican pollsters conducted focus groups of swing-state swing voters, mostly Democrats and independents, and John McLaughlin "handled blue collar and Catholic voters" in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He found that they tend to think Mitt Romney is "too rich," but "there is a start of resentment of the government." In Bedard's words, "voters were also lumping in the president's vacation spending in with the General Services Administration's Las Vegas scandal and federal spending for those who aren't looking for work."
Obama is also notorious for his golf outings. Blogress Ann Althouse, another swing voter (she has admitted supporting Obama in 2008), notes that George W. Bush was "savaged" for going golfing "when Americans were fighting and dying." Michael Moore made hay of it in his 2004 agitprop film "Fahrenheit 9/11," notwithstanding that Bush had given up golf in 2003 on the ground that it was unseemly: "I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong message." Althouse opens her post with a story about the latest casualties in Afghanistan.
[botwt0427]NBC/Hulu.com
Jimmy Fallon and Barack Obama
Althouse further criticizes Obama for his appearance earlier this week on the NBC show "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," in which, as Althouse notes, "Obama performs 5 minutes of a musically sexualized speech about students. . . . It's wearing down my sense of the outlandish." We watched part of the Fallon video and found it to be a head-scratcher. The president seems to be making a serious policy argument (in favor of extending subsidies for college debt), Fallon is sucking up to him, and somehow it's supposed to be a comedy routine. We guess you had to be there.
The student-debt debate has underscored another unattractive aspect of Obama's presidential style: his tendency to be always and indiscriminately on the attack. The Washington Post's Rosalind Helderman notes that the president not only personally attacked two Republican congressmen, Missouri's Todd Akin and North Carolina's Virginia Foxx, but grievously misquoted both of them.
Helderman dryly notes that "it is somewhat unusual for a sitting president to single out individual rank-and-file members of the opposition party for criticism and scorn in public speeches." She quotes Speaker John Boehner: "Frankly, I think this is beneath the dignity of the White House."
But is anything beneath the dignity of the Obama White House? This, after all, is the same president who has ignorantly blasted the Supreme Court and Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee. The only difference in his attacks on Akin and Foxx is that he is manifestly punching down. What next? Will he go after private citizens?
Oh ha ha, he's doing that already, as our colleague Kim Strassel notes:
This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled "Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney's donors." In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having "less-than-reputable records," the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that "quite a few" have also been "on the wrong side of the law" and profiting at "the expense of so many Americans."
Strassel likens Obama's demonization to Richard Nixon's "enemies list," which "appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust." It's an apt comparison, but even Nixon delegated much of his attack-doggery to his vice president, Spiro Agnew. We guess Joe Biden is too goofy for that role so Obama has to do it himself.
It seems to us that Althouse is on to something in suggesting that part of the reason Obama conducts himself in such an unseemly way is that the mainstream media are largely Democratic partisans, inclined to give their man a pass. True, there are plenty of alternative media voices now, but it's relatively easy for a leftist president to dismiss them and continue to enjoy the adulation of the so-called mainstreamers, who have also been suggesting lately that Obama is a shoo-in for re-election because he is so likable.
The McLaughlin findings point to the risk that that isn't the case. Obama could end up losing because sycophantic media encouraged him to act in such an unseemly way.
There's a parallel in the way the media have strained to play down bad economic news. A couple of hilarious examples come from NPR's website today: A homepage title asked: "Is Slow Growth Actually Good for the Economy?" (The actual story, which has a less risible title, pretty much answers in the negative.) And an NPR "Special Series" is titled "Looking Up: Pockets of Economic Strength."
Remember when the economy was strong and there were pockets of poverty? In November, it is possible the voters will.

EPIC LOLs -- Wind Farms Cause Global Warming

Ok ok, wind farms on their own are not causing climate change. But... turns out they do cause local warming. Not that big a deal now, but if you wanted to get to baseline kind of levels of wind farms, it would (one more reason why wind power makes less sense than Gingrich's campaign).


Wind farms can cause climate change, finds new study

Wind farms can cause climate change, according to new research, that shows for the first time the new technology is already pushing up temperatures.

Wind farms can cause a rise in temperature, found a study in Nature.
Wind farms can cause a rise in temperature, found a study in Nature. Photo: Alamy
Louise Gray
By , Environment Correspondent
6:00PM BST 29 Apr 2012
Usually at night the air closer to the ground becomes colder when the sun goes down and the earth cools.
But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.
Satellite data over a large area in Texas, that is now covered by four of the world's largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1C as more turbines are built.
This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.
It could also affect regional weather patterns as warmer areas affect the formation of cloud and even wind speeds.
It is reported China is now erecting 36 wind turbines every day and Texas is the largest producer of wind power in the US.
Liming Zhou, Research Associate Professor at the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New York, who led the study, said further research is needed into the affect of the new technology on the wider environment.
"Wind energy is among the world’s fastest growing sources of energy. The US wind industry has experienced a remarkably rapid expansion of capacity in recent years,” he said. “While converting wind’s kinetic energy into electricity, wind turbines modify surface-atmosphere exchanges and transfer of energy, momentum, mass and moisture within the atmosphere. These changes, if spatially large enough, might have noticeable impacts on local to regional weather and climate.”
The study, published in Nature, found a “significant warming trend” of up to 0.72C (1.37F) per decade, particularly at night-time, over wind farms relative to near-by non-wind-farm regions.
The team studied satellite data showing land surface temperature in west-central Texas.
“The spatial pattern of the warming resembles the geographic distribution of wind turbines and the year-to-year land surface temperature over wind farms shows a persistent upward trend from 2003 to 2011, consistent with the increasing number of operational wind turbines with time,” said Prof Zhou.
However Prof Zhou pointed out the most extreme changes were just at night and the overall changes may be smaller.
Also, it is much smaller than the estimated change caused by other factors such as man made global warming.
“Overall, the warming effect reported in this study is local and is small compared to the strong background year-to-year land surface temperature changes,” he added.
The study read: "Despite debates regarding the possible impacts of wind farms on regional to global scale weather and climate, modelling studies agree that they can significantly affect local scale meteorology."
Professor Steven Sherwood, co-Director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said the research was ‘pretty solid’.
“This makes sense, since at night the ground becomes much cooler than the air just a few hundred meters above the surface, and the wind farms generate gentle turbulence near the ground that causes these to mix together, thus the ground doesn't get quite as cool. This same strategy is commonly used by fruit growers (who fly helicopters over the orchards rather than windmills) to combat early morning frosts.”

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