What Constitutes A Tool? Orca Are Freuding Amazing Edition

So, apparently some folks have known about this for a long time, but I just came across a reference to orca gathering together several members of a pod who then swim, dive, and surge synchronously to produce a wave displacing several tons of water.

Why would they do that? Well, it turns out it’s a good way for orca to wash prey animals who rest on ice floes – mainly seals – off the safety of their floating islands and into the open water where the orca can eat them.

Here’s one video which culminates in three orca using the strategy:

 

However, there are others. I came across a 45 minute TV program that would be inconvenient to use in demonstrating the tactic. Still if you’re willing to scan through and find it, you can see five orca swimming, diving, & surging synchronously to form a massive wave. While synchronized action isn’t unusual in the animal kingdom (think of birds migrating in V formations or schools of fish turning in near-unison among other things), this involves not only planning, but very possibly also either communicating a plan to one’s companions or, even more spectacularly, a theory of mind where the means to communicate a plan are absent, but other orca recognize what one orca is attempting to achieve in the future, then thinking about how to enhance the success of that other animal’s plan. Thinking from that other animal’s perspective, if that’s what’s happening, is a stupendous intellectual feat.

It would not be the only time one can see theory of mind operating in non-human animals, but the operation of theory of mind is rare.

And yet, the thing that completely disarms me intellectually is the thought that in this instance, the very water in which they swim has probably been rendered into a tool, which would challenge the very definition of the word. Wikipedia’s discussion of tool use by animals has a brief discussion of the difficulties inherent in defining “tool”. The first example they present, though, is sufficient to the point:

The external employment of an unattached or manipulable attached environmental object to alter more efficiently the form, position, or condition of another object, another organism, or the user itself, when the user holds and directly manipulates the tool during or prior to use and is responsible for the proper and effective orientation of the tool.

Is the seawater an “environmental object” or the orca’s environment itself? I’m not sure, but this is an incredible bit of cooperative hunting a raises a great many questions about orca, their intelligence, and even the nature of tool use itself.

 

American Academy of Pediatrics is Not Down

The AAP is not down with what’s been happening to immigrant children of immigrants (both those who seek to cross within the law and those who seek to evade it). In addition to putting out a statement,

Dr Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter for children under the age of 12 that runs along the Texas border with Mexico.

And what did Kraft find?

The shelter in question held 60 beds and had a little playground for children. Rooms are equipped with toys, books and crayons. …

But the child who caught the paediatrician’s attention during a recent visit was anything but happy. This little girl – no older than two – was screaming and pounding her fists on a mat. Yet staff members could not comfort the infant because of the rules prohibiting physical contact.

That’s right: no hugs for toddlers is the law, because Democrats and their awful, no good, very bad refusal to capitulate to everything the Orange Tyrant wants, forever.

Or at least, I guess that what the Rs are saying today.

Ishtar fucking Inanna with the Strap-On of Birth Control, there are no words.

Credit Due

Pat Parker is a particularly awesome poet, although it’s true that we all tend to value most highly those things we can’t do ourselves, and whatever talent I have with language, it certainly doesn’t include a gift for brevity. So maybe I overvalue Parker because she’s able to make a point much more succinctly than I?

Hmm. Let’s see:

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Hold My Beer: Giuliani Explains His Own Statements on Credibility and Respect

It’s hard to even even on this one:

I respect all human beings. I even have to respect, you know, criminals. But I’m sorry I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation. …

So Stormy, you want to bring a case, let me cross examine you. Because the business you’re in entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight.

Oh, but that’s not all.

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Guided By The Beauty Of Our Weapons

Leonard Cohen wrote the title of this post, but many of those depraved on account’a they’re deprived might have first encountered them when Brian Williams wet his drawers on national TV over the awesomeness of US warships launching missiles with big, big fire. For Williams, the awe at the destructive power of the missile was somehow an affirmation that the US was right, that the US was working good.

Of course, Cohen never intended to mean anything like this. Cohen’s the kind of person who might have said this sarcastically, meaning to satirize the Brian Williams of the world, but in fact he didn’t even intend that. Instead, in Cohen’s song First We Take Manhattan he’s talking about changing the world not militarily, but through individual effort:

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Racism Not Among Known Side-Effects

This is hysterical.

Rosanne Barr has attempted to excuse her racist tweeting by claiming that she was on Ambien (an anti-insomnia medication) when she put out her last 10 years of tweets, or, well, at least that last one:

guys I did something unforgiveable so do not defend me. It was 2 in the morning and I was ambien tweeting-it was memorial day too-i went 2 far & do not want it defended

While it’s true that being awake while dead tired can make you think that you’re funnier and smarter than you really are, it doesn’t make you think different things. You’re just more likely to expect everyone to laugh at your comic genius. But, of course, being a wealthy celebrity has the same effect, and if you tweet out Rosanne-level shit over ten or more years and still get offered a new sitcom, that’s going to have an inhibition-lessening effect as well. All of which had the makers of Ambien feeling they had no reason to be generous to Barr. So they put out a tweet of their own:

People of all races, religions and nationalities work at Sanofi every day to improve the lives of people around the world. While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.

They were, of course, a little slower on the draw than individuals who didn’t have to get a tweet approved by some corporate supervisor, but I gotta say that I like the idea of a company willing to trash casual racism instead of taking some bullshit “above the fray”, supposedly morally neutral position.

 

 

 

Since Rosa Parks Wasn’t Rosa Parks, Who Was? Irene Bad-Ass Morgan, That’s Who

Over on Pharyngula, a discussion has been started about the propriety of using “accomplice” as a better word to describe the people that we have sometimes described as “allies” when discussing people that are not targeted by a specific form of oppression but nonetheless choose to work against it.

I started to write a comment over there about why I believe accomplice is appropriate, but it ended up becoming a treatise*1 about a woman named Irene Morgan*2. I decided that the thread shouldn’t be cluttered by a comment quite as long as I was writing, but that Morgan deserved better than cutting that treatise short. So I’ve moved it to Pervert Justice as a post for your reading pleasure.

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You know what’s ruining this country? Talking about racism.

Maxine Waters has been getting praise the last couple of days for her actions in standing against a bill designed to erode consumer protections. The protections in question are designed to make it harder for auto-loan companies to discriminate against people of color in lending terms.

The auto-loan business is unlike, say, the mortgage business where it’s relatively rare for the seller of a home to negotiate the terms of a mortgage taken out by the buyer. In the car business, negotiating the terms of a potential loan is part of the wheeling and dealing that goes into the process of selling the car. It turns out that there’s a lot of data that discrimination in loan terms has been happening even very recently. (This, unfortunately, is actually quite like mortgages where we know from the information that came out after the 2008 housing crash that people of color had been systematically pressed into taking unfavorable loan terms.) Because of this, these regulations have a direct impact on car dealerships themselves who are implicated in creating unfair terms – indeed the closely-connected, but frequently legally-separate loan companies don’t always know anything about the race of the buyer, but the car seller interacting with a buyer face-to-face certainly does. And it’s that seller negotiating the terms. So, of course, car sellers were a primary target of the regulations.

This has not gone down well with car sellers who take great exception to the idea that people of color being routinely charged more interest than white folks should in any way reflect badly on them … or justify intrusive government regulations. Trump, of course, is here to help out those beleaguered racists who desperately want the freedom to change people different interest rates based on race. Thus entered Maxine Waters and her praiseworthy defense of reasonable regulations on the floor of the House.

Not everyone found Waters’ defense praiseworthy, however. Mike Kelly, coincidentally the owner of several car dealerships, did not like Waters’ floor speech one bit. Not that he wanted to disagree with her, of course. He hated being put in a position where he was forced to disagree with her. The truly terrible thing about repealing anti-discrimination protections is that when repealing law whose entire purpose is to prevent discrimination based on race, the repeal’s opponents mention race at all!

“We have seen the economy take off,” Kelly, who also owns three auto dealerships, exclaimed. “I just think that if you come to the floor and there are 60 minutes to debate. 30 minutes on each side. But as I was sitting there, I had 30 minutes of Democrats coming down and talking about how bad automobile people are because they discriminate against nonwhite buyers. I said that’s not America. We don’t talk about those things.”

There’s so much to address. I’d love to leave the Jordan Peterson post up longer. I need to follow up on what happened in Gaza, Jerusalem, and the West Bank yesterday. And yet, here I am quoting some asshat white man who thinks the biggest tragedy in repealing a requirement that we not discriminate based on race is that we violate the sacred dictum that in REAL AMERIKKKA we shouldn’t ever talk about race.

Fuck Trump’s America.