Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I'm probably going to stir up controversy, and maybe even hostility, with what I say at the conclusion of this post, but it's something I feel strongly about and needs, I think, to be said.

In the area in which I live in south-central Pennsylvania Ring-necked pheasants and Bob-white quail were once abundant. Suddenly, beginning in the 1970s, their numbers suffered a dramatic decline resulting in the complete disappearance of both species by the 1990s. Pheasants are no longer seen in Pennsylvania fields, except on game lands where they're stocked by the game commission, and quail are never seen nor heard anymore in the county in which I live.

The extirpation has been variously ascribed to bird flu, West Nile virus, habitat loss, etc. but I've long suspected that feral house cats played a major role. Now a study published in the science journal Nature reinforces my admittedly speculative opinion. Here's the abstract of the study:
Anthropogenic threats, such as collisions with man-made structures, vehicles, poisoning and predation by domestic pets, combine to kill billions of wildlife annually. Free-ranging domestic cats have been introduced globally and have contributed to multiple wildlife extinctions on islands. The magnitude of mortality they cause in mainland areas remains speculative, with large-scale estimates based on non-systematic analyses and little consideration of scientific data. Here we conduct a systematic review and quantitatively estimate mortality caused by cats in the United States. We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.4–3.7 billion birds and 6.9–20.7 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals. Scientifically sound conservation and policy intervention is needed to reduce this impact.
These numbers sound almost incredibly high to me, but even if they're off by a factor of ten the toll taken by cats is immense. And it's not just un-owned cats that are the problem. Owned cats which are allowed to roam freely throughout a neighborhood take a heavy toll on birds at feeders as well as mammals like chipmunks and voles. It is, in my opinion, simply irresponsible of people who own cats to allow them to come and go as they please. Unconfined cats are a disaster to wildlife and people simply should not own them if they're unwilling to keep them in the house.

There, I've said it. Let the hate mail from cat enthusiasts begin.

The Illegal Immigration Problem

Can we trust the political class on immigration reform? Specifically, can this administration be counted upon to enforce any requirement to stop the influx of illegals along the border? If the past is an indicator the answer is no.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been feckless in their attention to border security and Mr. Obama has signaled that he has no desire to be any more diligent in upholding our laws in a second term than he was in his first.

Thus any reform which trusts either Republicans or Democrats to establish a secure southern border somewhere down the road is doomed. The current plan, much ballyhooed because Senator Marco Rubio supports it, is a farce. Eleven million (or so) current aliens will be granted immediate amnesty on the promise that sometime in the foggy future the administration will bestir itself to do something it currently has no inclination or incentive to do. Fat chance.

At VP we've long advocated a kind of amnesty for those already in the country illegally (To read it go here and scroll down to "Addressing Illegal Immigration"), but insisted that it be predicated on two prior conditions: First, that it be codified into law that no one who has broken our existing laws to get here be placed on a path to citizenship, and second, that prior to any amnesty being declared a secure fence be erected along the entire length of the southern border to ensure that there'll be no future deluge of illegal immigrants into the U.S. Israel has done something similar and has cut terrorist infiltration from Gaza to zero. We can do it, too.

Some Republicans oppose such measures, though, because they mistakenly see illegal immigrants as a source of cheap labor and as the answer to our long-term social security funding problem. Democrats won't go along because they see illegals as a vast Democrat constituency. Rush Limbaugh has pithily observed that Democrats would be down on the border right now pouring the footers for the fence if they were persuaded that illegal immigrants would, upon being granted citizenship, vote overwhelmingly Republican. He's also claimed that he himself would support complete amnesty and a road to citizenship if part of the deal was that these new citizens be prevented from voting for twenty five years. If that were the condition, he opines, the Democrats would quickly lose interest in any solution to the immigration problem. He's probably right.

As Charles Krauthammer argues, we need to build the fence first - we could even have the president go down and drive in the final golden post at a Promontory Point II - and then declare amnesty. To do it the other way around means that the golden post will never get driven in, and we'll be having this same debate all over again in another twenty five years when there are millions more illegals in the country.

Krauthammer's probably right, too.