To Save One Species of Brown Owl, the Feds Want to Shoot Hundreds of Thousands of a More Adaptable Similar-Looking Species of Brown Owl

Isn’t it interesting that many in the Pacific Northwest and in the federal government want to take guns away from self-defending citizens at the same time that they want to use large-bore shotguns to shoot hundreds of thousands of brown owls whose only sin is that, unlike the spotted owls who they resemble, they are not picky eaters?

(p. D1) In the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, the northern spotted owl, a rare and fragile subspecies of spotted owl, is being muscled out of its limited habitat by the barred owl, its larger and more ornery northeastern cousin. The opportunistic barred owl has been moving in on spotted owl turf for more than half a century, competing with the locals for food and space, outnumbering, out-reproducing and inevitably chasing them out of their nesting spots. Barred owls have also emerged as a threat to the California spotted owl, a closely related subspecies in the Sierra Nevada and the mountains of coastal and Southern California.

. . .

(p. D5) In a last-ditch effort to rescue the northern spotted owl from oblivion and protect the California spotted owl population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed culling a staggering number of barred owls across a swath of 11 to 14 million acres in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, where barred owls — which the agency regards as invasive — are encroaching. The lethal management plan calls for eradicating up to half a million barred owls over the next 30 years, or 30 percent of the population over that time frame. The owls would be dispatched using the cheapest and most efficient methods, from large-bore shotguns with night scopes to capture and euthanasia.

. . .

The agency’s plan, outlined last fall in a draft report assessing its environmental impact that is due for final review this summer, has pitted conservationists, who say it will benefit both species, against animal supporters, who consider the proposed scale, scope and timeline unsustainable.

Last month, a coalition of 75 wildlife protection and animal welfare organizations sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland urging her to scrap what they called a “colossally reckless action” that would necessitate a perpetual killing program to keep the number of barred owls in check. Wayne Pacelle, the president of Animal Wellness Action and an author of the statement, said it was dangerous for the government to start managing competition and social interaction among North American species, including ones that have expanded their range as a partial effect of “human perturbations” of the environment. “I cannot see how this succeeds politically, because of its price tag and its sweeping ambitions,” he said in an email.

Mr. Pacelle questions whether barred owls, which are indigenous to North America, truly meet the criteria for an invasive species. “This ‘invasive’ language rings familiar to me in our current political debates,” he said. “Demonize the migrants, and the harsh policy options become much easier from a moral perspective.”

The signatories argued that the current predicament warranted nonlethal control, and that the agency’s approach would lead to the wrong owls being shot and to the death of thousands of eagles, hawks and other creatures from lead poisoning. “Implementing a decades-long plan to unleash untold numbers of ‘hunters’ in sensitive forest ecosystems is a case of single-species myopia regarding wildlife control,” the letter said.

. . .

At first sight, it’s easy to mistake a spotted for a barred: Both have tuftless rounded heads, teddy bear eyes and bodies mottled brown and white. They can interbreed to produce chicks called sparred owls. But they differ in their habitat requirements. Up to four pairs of barred owls can occupy the three-to-12 square miles that one spotted couple needs, and barred owls aggressively defend their terrain. “The closer spotted owls live to barred owls, the less likely the spotted owls are to have offspring,” Dr. Wiens said. Barred owls also produce four times as many young.

Spotted owls are extremely picky eaters: In California, they eat only flying squirrels and wood rats. “Barred owls devour anything and everything,” Ms. Bloem said, . . .

For the full story see:

Franz Lidz. “The Lethal Cost of a Rescue.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 30, 2024): D1 & D5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 29, 2024, and has the title “They Shoot Owls in California, Don’t They?” Where there is a difference in wording between the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Prime Minister Robert Peel Lost His Job for Supporting Repeal of the Corn Laws, but Advanced Britain’s Middle-Class

(p. C11) Simon Heffer’s “High Minds” is a deep, droll and lucid exploration of Britain’s intellectual and political life from 1837, when the young Queen Victoria ascended the throne of a chaotic, semifeudal society, to 1880, by which time Victoria was a widow and the Empress of India, and the British, apart from those at the very top and bottom of society, had bootstrapped themselves into sobriety and “respectability.”

. . .

The “crucial step” in the middle-class advance, Mr. Heffer writes, was the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Opening the ports to foreign grain pacified the workers by lowering the price of bread. It hobbled the aristocracy by cutting the value of land, their biggest asset. And it geared economic policy to the commercial classes. A “long-term realignment” in politics followed. Repeal was secured by a Tory prime minister, Robert Peel, in alliance with free-market Whigs. It cost Peel his job but, over the next two decades, the Whigs turned into the Liberals, the party of middle-class reform.

For the full review, see:

Dominic Green. “Laying Stone on Stone.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 23, 2022 [sic]): C10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date April 22, 2022 [sic], and has the title “‘High Minds’ Review: The Victorian Pursuit of Perfection.”)

The book under review is:

Heffer, Simon. High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain. New York: Pegasus Books, 2022.

As Temps Rise, Trees Adapt to Global Warming by Slowing Their Increasing Release of Carbon Dioxide

The late great physicist Freeman Dyson was courageously skeptical of global warming based on forces that move Earth back toward equilibrium when initially nudged away. The story quoted below provides evidence consistent with Dyson’s narrative.

(p. D2) The bend-don’t-break adaptability of trees extends to handling climate change, according to a new study that says forests may be able to deal with hotter temperatures and contribute less carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than scientists previously thought.

In addition to taking in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, plants also release it through a process called respiration. Globally, plant respiration contributes six times as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as fossil fuel emissions, much of which is reabsorbed by plants, the oceans and other elements of nature. Until now, most scientists have thought that a warming planet would cause plants to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn would cause more warming.

But in a study published Wednesday [March 16, 2016 [sic]] in Nature, scientists showed that plants were able to adapt their respiration to increases in temperature over long periods of time, releasing only 5 percent more carbon dioxide than they did under normal conditions.

Based on measurements of short-term temperature responses in this study and others, the scientists expected that the plants would increase their respiration by nearly five times that much.

At two forest-research sites in Minnesota, scientists tested how the respiration rates of 10 different species of trees — from boreal and temperate forests — were affected by increases in temperature over a period of three to five years, using heating cables to warm some of the trees.

The trees were monitored in two conditions: ambient, and about 6 degrees warmer than that.

To demonstrate how the plants adapted to long-term temperature increases, the scientists compared three things: how much carbon dioxide the trees released in ambient conditions; how much the trees released in the warmer conditions; and how much carbon dioxide the trees released when they were exposed to the warmer temperature for a short period of time (minutes or hours).

When the scientists compared the results, they found that the trees that were acclimated to the warmer temperatures increased their carbon dioxide release by a much smaller amount than the trees that were only exposed to a short-term temperature increase of the same magnitude.

Boreal and temperate forests account for a third of the world’s forest areas. If they are able to adapt respiration rates as this study suggests, the planet will breathe easier.

The source of the story is:

Tatiana Schlossberg. “Energy Appetite in U.S. Endangers Goals on Climate.” The New York Times (Tuesday, March 22, 2016 [sic]): D2.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated March 16, 2016 [sic], and has the title “Trees Deal With Climate Change Better Than Expected.” The last two sentences quoted above differ in a non-trivial way in the print and the online versions. Above I choose to quote the less politically correct print version. The wimpish politically correct online version is: “Boreal and temperate forests account for a third of the world’s forest areas, and if they adapt their respiration rates in the way this study suggests, the forests, the planet’s lungs, can breathe easy.”)

The Nature article mentioned above is:

Reich, Peter B., Kerrie M. Sendall, Artur Stefanski, Xiaorong Wei, Roy L. Rich, and Rebecca A. Montgomery. “Boreal and Temperate Trees Show Strong Acclimation of Respiration to Warming.” Nature 531, no. 7596 (March 16, 2016): 633-36.

“He Lived as a Free Man and Died as a Free Man”

(p. A1) Thousands of people crowded a neighborhood on Moscow’s outskirts on Friday [March 1, 2024] — some bearing flowers and chanting, “No to war!” — as they tried to catch a glimpse of the funeral for Aleksei A. Navalny. The outpouring turned the opposition leader’s last rites into a striking display of dissent in Russia at a time of deep repression.

. . .

After a procession to the cemetery, Mr. Navalny’s coffin was placed next to his freshly dug grave. Video live streamed from the site showed his family members and then other mourners kissing him goodbye for the last time. Then his face was covered with a white cloth and the coffin was lowered to the Frank Sinatra song “My Way” and then the final song from “Terminator 2,” which Mr. Navalny considered “the best film on Earth.” Mourners slowly passed by, each taking a handful of dirt and tossing it into the grave.

. . .

Outside the church, people chanted, “Thank you, Aleksei” and “Love is stronger than fear,” according to videos from the scene. As they gathered next to the cemetery, mourners cried out, “peace for Ukraine — freedom for Russia!”

. . .

(p. A8) Some people traveled from far away to attend the funeral. Anastasia, 19, had flown in from Novosibirsk, 1,800 miles from Moscow, to be present.

“I came here because this is a historic event,” she said in a voice message from the neighborhood where the church service was held. “I think that he is a freer man than all of us,” she said of Mr. Navalny. “He lived as a free man and died as a free man.”

In Russia, it is considered bad luck to give living people an even number of flowers in a bouquet — those are reserved for funerals. But Anastasia said that many mourners carried bouquets with an odd number, “because for them, Navalny lives on.”

For the full story, see:

Valerie Hopkins. “Crowds Flood Moscow Streets Over Navalny.” The New York Times (Saturday, March 2, 2024): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 1, 2024, and has the title “Thousands Turn Out for Navalny’s Funeral in Moscow.”)

Risk of Bat Disease Spillover to Humans Is Small and Decreasing

(p. A15) The World Health Assembly in May is poised to divert $10.5 billion of aid away from tackling diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Instead, that money will go toward combating the threat of viruses newly caught from wildlife. The assumption behind this initiative, endorsed by the Group of 20 summit in Bali in 2022, is that the threat of pandemics from spillovers of animal viruses is dramatically increasing.

That assumption is almost certainly false. A new report from the University of Leeds, prepared in part by former World Health Organization executives, finds that the claims made by the G-20 in support of this agenda either are unsupported by evidence, contradict their own cited sources, or fail to correct for improved detection of pathogens. Over the past decade the burden and risk of spillover has been relatively small and probably decreasing. The Leeds authors conclude: “The implication is that the largest investment in international public health in history is based on misinterpretations of key evidence as well as a failure to thoroughly analyze existing data.”

. . .

It is a misconception that population growth or prosperity leads humanity to encroach on wildlife habitats. The poorest people in Africa encroach on forest wildlife by hunting for bush meat; when they grow richer, they shop for chicken or pork instead. Humans visited bat caves more frequently in the distant past.

. . .

The prospect of spending $31 billion a year on pandemic prevention, a third of which would be new money and a third diverted from other programs, provides an incentive for international bureaucrats to ignore or misrepresent evidence that the problem is small.

But a dollar spent on spillover can’t be spent on something else, and the evidence is clear that sanitation, nutrition and vitamins are more cost-effective ways to save lives in poor countries—from infectious diseases as well as other causes.

For the full commentary, see:

Matt Ridley. “Why Scientists Love Chasing Bats.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 7, 2024): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 6, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

The University of Leeds report mentioned above is:

Bell, David, Garrett Brown, Blagovesta Tacheva, and Jean von Agris. “Rational Policy over Panic: Re-Evaluating Pandemic Risk within the Global Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Agenda.” REPPARE Report. University of Leeds, UK, Feb. 2024, URL:

Modern Law Tries to Rule Out Error and Accident at the Expense of Individual Freedom

(p. C9) Philip K. Howard’s “Everyday Freedom: Designing the Framework for a Flourishing Society” is a slim book propounding a colossal, sometimes unwieldy, thesis. Beginning in the 1960s, Mr. Howard argues, American law was transformed from a system designed to guard individual freedom and accountability into one in which bad outcomes are impossible. Modern law, he writes, is “an elaborate precautionary system aimed at precluding human error. Anything that goes wrong, any accident or disappointment, any disagreement, potentially requires a legal solution. Instead of charging officials to do what’s sensible, modern law presumes that the gravest risk is to leave room for judgment of people in positions of authority.”

The consequence, he observes, is a society of people who feel they can’t make decisions without thick rule books explaining best practices and legal protections if their decision turns out badly.

For the full review, see:

Barton Swaim. “Bring Back the Smoke-Filled Rooms.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 2, 2024): C9.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 1, 2024, and has the title “Politics: ‘The Primary Solution’ by Nick Troiano Plus ‘Everyday Freedom’ by Philip K. Howard.”)

The book under review above is:

Howard, Philip K. Everyday Freedom: Designing the Framework for a Flourishing Society. Garden City, NY: Rodin Books, 2024.

China-Born Dissidents Supported Trump for His “Willingness to Confront Beijing”

(p. A18) Many who fled abroad after being detained in China for their political activism have been won over by President Trump’s willingness to confront Beijing.

. . .

Fewer than one-quarter of Chinese-Americans voted for Mr. Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to a study by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

But many mainland-China-born exiles are different. Teng Biao, a prominent U.S.-based Chinese lawyer and a critic of Mr. Trump, draws parallels to Cuban exiles, who aren’t so much pro-Trump as they are anti-communist.

For the full story, see:

Sha Hua. “Chinese Dissidents Back Trump Claims.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Nov. 23, 2020 [sic]): A18.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 22, 2020 [sic], and has the title “Chinese Dissidents Back Trump’s Claims of Election Fraud.”)

King George III and George Washington Both Admired Cato, Defender of the Roman Republic

(p. C7) George III (1738-1820) enjoyed one of the longest reigns in British history, but he is known mostly for his turbulent early years as king and the loss of Britain’s American colonies. Thomas Paine called him “a wicked tyrannical brute”; Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, said his character was “marked by every act which may define a tyrant.” As if such charges weren’t enough, George III suffered in his later years from bouts of mental illness that eventually curtailed his reign.

In “The Last King of America,” Andrew Roberts sets out to reclaim George III by drawing a portrait of the man in full and recalibrating modern judgments, not least the judgments of Americans who may share Jefferson’s view. Far from a tyrant, Mr. Roberts argues, George III dutifully supported Britain’s parliamentary constitution of limited monarchy.

. . .

. . . in 1751, . . . the shy, introverted teenager next in line to the throne aimed to be a patriot king.

What did that mean? One gauge, Mr. Roberts observes, is a prologue (written by his father) that George declaimed as a 10-year-old at a performance of “Cato,” a play by Joseph Addison dramatizing the life of the Roman republican. The prologue expressed a pride in England and a love of liberty. (Ironically, “Cato,” performed at Valley Forge, was George Washington’s favorite play.) And indeed, George III later upheld the parliamentary supremacy established by the Glorious Revolution of 1688. No monarch, he believed, could rule justly without the consent of his realm.

Had British statesmen possessed the diplomatic acumen of Franklin and Washington, Mr. Roberts argues, a way through the impasse in North America might have been found. Many colonists had hoped that George III would take their side against Parliament. The king himself spoke of “fighting the battle of the legislature.” Instead, the British establishment—the king included—determined to crush what they viewed as a conspiracy of the colonial elite.

For the full review, see:

William Anthony Hay. “The Method & the Madness.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 [sic]): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Oct. 29, 2021 [sic], and has the title “‘The Last King of America’ Review: The Method and the Madness.”)

The book under review above is:

Roberts, Andrew. The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III. London: Viking, 2021.

Covid Mandates and Firms Restricting Employee Speech Led Democrat to Invest in Tucker Carlson Media Venture

(p. A18) Five years ago, Omeed Malik was a self-described “run-of-the-mill corporate Democrat,” with a seat on the Council on Foreign Relations, a summer house in the Hamptons, and stints at Bank of America and white-shoe law firm Weil, Gotshal under his belt.

Then Covid happened. Chafing under government mandates he found illogical and corporate limits on speech that felt to him like censorship, he moved from Manhattan to Florida and began hanging out with Republican donors. He discovered a business opportunity in a so-called parallel economy of conservative-friendly companies.

Now, he is one of their financiers. Malik this year launched 1789 Capital, which aims to capitalize on the opportunities that it sees left open by the “wokeness” of more traditional sources of capital.

Its first fund, with a modest $150 million, made its initial investment Monday [Oct. 16, 2023], leading a $15 million seed round with other private investors into Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel’s new media company.

For the full story, see:

Keach Hagey. “1789 Invests in Carlson’s Media Firm.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023): B1-B2.

(Note: bracketed date added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 17, 2023, and has the title “Tucker Carlson’s Media Company Secures Investment Led by ‘Anti-Woke’ Firm.”)

“MSNBC’s Business Model . . . Is Flaying Trump 24 Hours a Day”

Maureen Dowd, a leading opinion columnist at The New York Times, is left-wing but sometimes refreshingly blunt, as in some of her comments from right after the Iowa Republican caucuses.

(p. 2) . . . MSNBC refused to carry Trump’s victory speech at all and CNN cut away from the 25-minute remarks after 10 minutes. Fox News, of course, played it all.

Rachel Maddow said her network’s decision was “not out of spite.” It’s not personal — it’s strictly business, as Michael Corleone said. MSNBC’s business model, after all, is flaying Trump 24 hours a day.

For the full commentary, see:

Maureen Dowd. “Can the MAGA Shrew Be Tamed?” The New York Times, SundayOpinion Section (Sunday, January 21, 2024): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 20, 2024, and has the same title as the print version.)

Democratic Politicians Are More Tolerant of Illegal Immigration Than Are Democratic Voters

(p. A10) Before Trump ran for president, Democrats tended to combine passionate support for many forms of immigration with a belief in strong border security. But Trump’s harsh anti-immigration stance pushed the party toward the opposite end of the spectrum.

Today, many Democratic politicians are willing to accept high levels of undocumented immigration and oppose enforcement measures that the party once favored. Some Democrats, especially on the left, argue that the government doesn’t even have the power to reduce migration much.

This shift has created political vulnerabilities for Democrats — because most Americans are closer to the party’s old position than to its new one.

. . .

Even with all their current concerns, Americans are not opposed to immigration. Most say that legal immigrants strengthen the country, and many believe the U.S. should remain a haven for people fleeing repression. But most Americans also think that the country’s immigration laws should mean something and that citizens of other countries should not be able to enter this country simply because they want to.

For the full commentary, see:

David Leonhardt. “Democrats Are Out of Step With Public Opinion on Immigration.” The New York Times (Friday, January 19, 2024): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 17, 2024, and has the title “A 2024 Vulnerability; The Democrats are out of step with public opinion when it comes to immigration.”)