August 15, 2007


Caption: Seamus McGoogle thinks he's worth it.

The political economy of pets in the US today is staggering (see also yesterday's post). According to Business Week,

Americans now spend $41 billion a year on their pets—more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world. That's double the amount shelled out on pets a decade ago, with annual spending expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company based in Rockville, Md. That puts the yearly cost of buying, feeding, and caring for pets in excess of what Americans spend on the movies ($10.8 billion), playing video games ($11.6 billion), and listening to recorded music ($10.6 billion) combined...

It's starting to get kind of weird.

"People are no longer satisfied to reward their pet in pet terms," argues Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn. (APPMA). "They want to reward their pet in human terms." That means hotels instead of kennels, braces to fix crooked teeth, and frilly canine ball gowns. Pet owners are becoming increasingly demanding consumers who won't put up with substandard products, unstimulating environments, or shoddy service for their animals. But the escalating volume and cost of services, especially in the realm of animal medicine, raises ethical issues about how far all this loving should go.

I need to talk to the goats about this...when they get back from the spa.

SQUIRREL STYLE KUNG FU. I've heard of tiger, crane, leopard and other styles, but here's a new one on the fuzzy tailed art of self defense:

University of California, Davis researchers used an infrared camera to film squirrels as they confronted predatory rattlesnakes.

The squirrels, they saw, actually heated up their tails, then waved them at the snakes... The rattlers, which rely on infrared sensors to detect their prey, were ostensibly confused by the animal equivalent of having a flaming torch waved in your face.

Why didn't I think of that?

A researcher was quoted as saying about the research that "It taught us to focus on the perceptual world of the animal we’re studying” rather than on how it looks to human observers.

Sun Tzu, ancient Chinese author of The Art of War, would not be surprised. He said "All warfare is based upon deception."

WHO REALLY GETS WELFARE? Here's economist Dean Baker on corporate welfare and other public subsidies for the well-to-do:

In the days before welfare reform, single mothers could collect five or six hundred dollars a month without working. That was what welfare looked like before 1996. In the Internet Age, welfare is about having the government do everything it can to make the rich absolutely as rich as possible. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said many years ago, the rich are not like you or me: They need the government’s assistance to get by. There are all sorts of ways in which the government helps those who have the most.

COSTS OF WAR. El Cabrero will be joining some companeros today for a press conference on the costs of the war in Iraq. Here's a good one on the huge private army of contractors waging war for a profit.

WARNING SIGNS of serious safety concerns at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah have been around for some time, according to this source.


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