Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gas at $7 a Gallon, and a $3 Trillion Dollar War Tab



Both Qatar's oil minister and the head of OPEC say they can see oil hitting $200 a barrel before the end of the year, and one analyst says gas could reach $7 a gallon -- or more -- within the next four years.

Wonderful.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush says he wishes he had a magic wand .... which is almost exactly what he said two years ago when he also did nothing about energy costs and energy dependency other than to put more troops into Iraq while giving the "big wink" to oil company profiteering.

What, exactly, did we expect when we elected two oil men to the Oval office?

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to have almost no energy policy. Solar, wind and ethanol research combined are funded at the rate of $1.15 per person per year. Question: How much is that in fluid ounces of gasoline?

John McCain does not seem too concerned, however. He says it's OK for us to be in Iraq for 100 years -- or longer -- and likens such an occupation to our presence in:


  • Japan (after two nuclear bombs and millions dead, including scores of thousands of American soldiers, etc.) or;

  • Germany (after a war that left upwards of 10 million dead, including scores of thousands of American soldiers), or;

  • Korea (a war that left more than 3 million dead, including scores of thousands of American soldiers).

So yes, we have excellent leadership on both the oil and war fronts.

Is there any good news here? Sure.

The good news is that regular people are selling off their heirlooms on Craig's list and EBay so they can buy gas in order to get to work.

That means if you are a cash-rich person who prudently invested in oil and gas stocks before the American invasion of Iraq (and you know who you are, wink, wink) you can get jet skis, old wedding rings, and antique furniture at a steep discount. Lucky you!

On the downside, America's working poor will not only have to pay more at the pump, they will also have to pay more in taxes due to the rapidly rising war debt. Silly them!

How much will the war cost us? Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, an economist at Harvard's Kennedy School estimate the Iraq war will cost the U.S. in the neighbourhood of $3 trillion — six times the current official figure. Of this $3 trillion figure, nearly two-thirds is due to higher oil prices, and the cost of deficit-financing the war.

And be advised that this is just the economic cost and just for the U.S. -- it does not include the costs in human life, or the cost to Iraq or any other country or people.

Of course, the Republican apology-machine says "don't worry, it's just money."

Which is not quite true, is it? It's also about dead and horribly wounded soldiers. Oops! Forgot about them! Damn Walter Reed Medical Center.

But no matter. You've got to break some eggs to make an omelet. And besides, all those soldiers volunteered.

Besides, wouldn't you rather have a pointless and never-ending war in the Middle East than anything else? I mean what good is health care insurance, better roads, better schools, and a stronger Social Security system? Who needs that?

And just think of how cheap this war is compared to Iraq becoming another Muslim terrorist state. Which apparently is something different from what it is now.

Hmmmm. Who knew?

Never content to let the parade of good news end, George W. Bush and John McCain are now saying we might have to do it all over again ... in IRAN.

You see, the GOP Brain Trust tells us, Iran might have "weapons of mass destruction."

Which is, if you recall, where we all came in.

Pardon me if I do not exit laughing.
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Veterinary Billing Without Oversight or Regulation

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies carefully sift through human health care bills looking for obvious cases of upcoding, bill-padding and billing for medically unnecessary work.

Under federal law, the consequence of ripping off Medicare and Medicaid can be triple damages plus statutory fines of $5,500 to $11,000 per violation. As a consequence, there are a lot of disincentives to ripping off America's health care system -- billions of them, in fact.

And yet, as we all know, the health care system is routinely ripped off, nonetheless.

So, one wonders what goes on in the arena of veterinary care, where the are no sanctions against fraud, where "catch me if you can" is the traditional billing model, and where health-based outcomes are not tracked at all.

Is your veterinarian killing a higher-than-normal number of dogs while putting them under anesthesia for dental work that is not even medically-necessary?

Who knows?

When your vet spays young bitches, do a higher-than-normal number later develop incontinence?

Who knows?

Is your vet charging twice a much for a neutering as other vets in the area? Does he or she vaccinate more often, test more often, and suggest expensive and extraordinary interventions more often than other vets in the area? Do the health outcomes justify this practice?

Who knows?

The simple truth is that idea of results-oriented medicine and anti-fraud controls has simply not made its way to the field of veterinary care.

As a consequence, the only thing that stands between you, the customer, and being ripped off, is your veterinarian's conscience (which the AVMA is working hard to erase) and your willingness to get educated and "just say NO" to price-gouging and medically-questionable billing.

How much bill padding, price-gouging and waste goes on in American veterinary care?

Who knows? All anyone knows for sure is that there are virtually NO legal or regulatory disincentives to upcoding, bill-padding, kickbacks, price-gouging and billing for medically unnecessary work in place at the moment.

And if we look at human health care where results-oriented medicine is closely tracked, and where there are sizable legal and regulatory disincentives to fraud and price-gouging, the numbers we find here are not comforting.

Consider this: a new analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers puts the value of the waste sloshing around in the American human health care system at a whopping $1.2 trillion a year.

That's trillion with a "T," and that number represents HALF of all human health care expenses in this country.

Consider the relative per-capita cost of health care in various countries that are a lot like us to be found on page two of the PwC report (click on table below to enlarge).





As you can see, ALL of these countries have better health care outcomes than we do here in the U.S., and yet these countries are paying less than HALF what we are paying for health care in this country.

What the hell is going on?

Well, the short story is that Americans are being ripped off blind. Back in 1991, I was the person who pitched the story to Mike Wallace at 60 Minutes about how drugs made in America were being sold for one third-the price to patients in Canada, Mexico, Europe and and Asia. Why were the drug companies ripping off U.S. customers? Simple: they could.

Over the last four years, as part of my day job, I have been researching, writing and commenting on massive Medicaid frauds by drug companies, huge frauds perpetrated by pharmaceutical company middlemen, massive hospital frauds, and the payola politics that make it all go around.

I know what percentage of certain types of doctors are on the take from drug companies, how much the kickbacks are on each knee and hip replacement, how ambulance companies and "bill mills" cheat Medicare and Medicaid, and how simple billing scams can add thousands of dollars to the cost of a simple overnight hospital visit.

And yet the questions hang out there ..... Are human doctors less honest than veterinarians?

Are veterinary hospitals more honest than human hospitals?

Are the drug and device makers who sell their stuff to vets an entirely different lot from the human-drug and -device counterparts?

Or, could it be (heaven forfend!) that we dog owners are often ripped off at the vets office, just as about as often as we are at the doctor's office, the pharmacy, and the hospital?

More on that later. In the interim, a word to the wise (which is generally sufficient): Caveat emptor.


  • Related articles:
** The Billion Dollar Lyme Disease Scam
** Lyme Disease: Hard to Catch and Easy to Halt
** Veterinary Trades Say It's Time to Rip-off the Rubes
** Is Your Veterinarian Clean? Don't Count On It.
** A Season to Everything
** Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Dogs
** Vet Pricing Has Nothing To Do With Care
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Hook Worms




Hookworms are small, thin worms that fasten to the wall of the small intestine and suck blood. Dogs get hookworm if they come in contact with the larvae in contaminated soil. As with roundworms, the hookworm larvae becomes an adult in the intestine. The pups can contract hookworms in the uterus and the dam can infest the pups through her milk.

A severe hookworm infestation can kill puppies, but chronic hookworm infection is usually not a problem in an older dog. When it does occur, the signs include diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, and progressive weakness. Diagnosis is made by examining the feces for eggs under a microscope.
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Low Cost All-Worm Treatment


I do not believe in worming every month -- none of my dogs manifest any signs of worms and worming medicine is a poison that I think should be administered for cause, or at least with less vigor than some dog owners believe.

That said, worming has never been easier. Roundworms and tapeworms are the most common canine worm types and highly effective over-the-couner worming medicines for these worms have been available for decades. For simple regular worming, go with these.

If you think a dog has hook or whip worms, as well as round worms and tapeworms, try Safe-Guard (10% Fenbendazole). This medicine is now available in dog-ready packages from most online veterinary supply places, but if you have a very large kennel a less expensive version can be made up from SafeGuard used for horses, provided the following dosage directions are carefully followed. The dosage for canines is 1 ml (which contains 100 mg active ingredient) per 5 lbs of dog bodyweight. For example, a 15 lb terrier would receive 3 ml (same as 3 cc or about two-thirds of a teaspoon) per day for a 3 day period.

Fenbendazole is always administered for 3-consecutive days rather than only one day, to be sure the puppies and dogs are 100% worm-free.
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Common Intestinal Worms: Roundworm



Dogs can be hosts to a variety of parasitic intestinal worms. The most common are the roundworms which tend to infest most puppies, but tapeworms can be a problem when flea infestations are high.

Most worm infestations cause any or all of the following symptoms: diarrhea, perhaps with blood in the stool; weight loss; dry hair; general poor appearance; and vomiting, perhaps with worms in the vomit. However, some infestations cause few or no symptoms. In fact some worm eggs or larvae may be dormant in your dog's body and activated only in times of stress, or in the case of roundworms, in the very stages of pregnancy, when they are activated and passed on to the soon-to-be-born puppies.

Roundworms: Roundworms are most common in the intestines of puppies, often causing a pot-bellied appearance and poor growth. The worms may be seen in vomit or stool; a severe infestation can cause death by intestinal blockage.

This worm can grow to seven inches in length, and the females can produce 200,000 eggs in a day, and the eggs can lay dormant in the soil for months or even years due to their hard protective casing. Dogs generally become infected by ingesting round worm eggs from contaminated soil, and worm eggs can often be found in dog parks, public lawns, and anywhere where wild game runs free such as a farm. Roundworm eggs hatch in the intestine of the dog and the resulting larva are carried to the lungs by the bloodstream. The larva then crawl up the windpipe and get swallowed, often causing the pup to cough or gag. Once the larvae returns to the intestine, they grow into adult roundworms.

Roundworms do not typically infest adult dogs. However, as noted above, the larvae can encyst themselves in body tissue of adult bitches and activate during the last stages of pregnancy to infest puppies. Worming the bitch has no effect on the encysted larvae and cannot prevent the worms from infecting the puppies.

Roundworms can be treated with an over-the-counter wormer found in pet stores, but care should be given to mixing the proper dosage.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Best Reality-TV Show Not Yet on the Air




Lesly W-S. writes with a terrific idea. She notes that the folks trying to place feral Bureau of Land Management mustangs "have really found a fascinating marketing tool!"

They are doing Mustang Makeovers and Mustang Challenges ("55 Wild Mustangs! 55 Trainers! $12,000+ in prize money!") with the idea of getting horse trainers to "show their stuff" by training wild horses to be rehomed.

The 3-4 yr old mustangs are assigned to trainers randomly, and each trainer has 100 days to train them.

This is, quite obviously, a competition, but one in which whatever the outcome for the humans, THE HORSES ALWAYS WIN.

At the end of the competition, in which the trainers compete for prize money (and bragging rights), the horses are auctioned off with the proceeds going to a local charity.

Lesly says the Midwest Mustang Challenge brought in DROVES of on lookers, and raised a lot of interest in the horses, as well as the trainers and their styles, while also raising awareness of the horse situation on BLM lands (BLM reps were on hand to answer questions, etc.)

OK, now imagine a reality show series based on the same thing, but with dogs.

Would you watch this? Would I watch this? In a red-hot minute!

This is a GREAT idea -- a terrific way to showcase both dogs that need homes AND the wide variety of dog training methods that are out there.

The point here is obvious: and the power, potential, and advertising base is just as obvious.

Animal Planet, what the hell are you waiting for?

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Randy Travis :: He Walked On Water


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Five Dollar Gas?



Five dollars -- good for one gallon of gas. That's where we're going.

And I just checked, and John McCain still does not have an energy plan mentioned on his web site. Check it out under "issues".

Nothing.

Zero.

Zilch.

Unbelievable.

Gasoline prices and energy dependency are, literally, non-issues for John McCain.

The closest John McCain comes to an energy policy is a little sticker page where he says we should "institute a summer gas tax holiday."

A summer gas tax holiday??!

Translation: "I think you're so stupid that if I mention 'taxes' you'll forget that the international price for oil is now $118 a barrel due to this crippling war which I voted for, and which I still support. I think you're so stupid you won't realize I'm simply trying to pander to you until the election in November. I think you're so stupid you won't realize this 'holiday' will soon end, but in the meantime it will add tremendous amounts to the National Debt (already rising fast due to the war) while undercutting our ability to repair roads and bridges which are, literally, collapsing around us."

John McCain really is a fossil fool from another era. He's a politician locked and ready to move us from horses to cars, but he's the wrong politician to move us into the Next Economy, which even British Petroleum understand is "beyond petroleum."

Can we really afford a President who does not have a single word on his campaign web site about energy policy?

Can we really afford a candidate who actively opposes increased fuel efficiency standards?

And can we really afford a national media that simply ignores this very real issue??

Why is it OK for the government to send our children to the Middle East to DIE for oil, and to be CRIPPLED for oil, but it's not OK for this same government to mandate increased fuel efficiency standards and to invest in alternative energy and energy conservation?

Is there anything more likely to impact impact your life (your commute to work, your run to town for groceries, your hunting season, your dog show and dog trials, your vacation) than the price of gasoline?

And realize that the price of gasoline has gone up $2 a gallon since the start of this war that John McCain continues to be a cheerleader for.

Remember in November.

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Road Sinkhole




A road sinkhole on I-70, up near where I dig on the dogs, opened up on Thursday. The hole measured better than 14 feet around by 20 feet deep, and was in the west-bound lane.
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Monday, April 28, 2008

Digging on the Dogs

Doug P. Came up from North Carolina to go digging on the dogs, and he had his green dog, Murphy with him -- a very nice-looking naturally bob-tailed fell terrier he got from Dave Mason down in Tennessee.

Murphy is a she (think Murphy Brown) and she had found her first possum a couple of nights earlier.

You never know how it's going to go with a brand new dog fresh in the field, but Murphy is age two and the penny had clearly dropped; she did splendidly.

Mountain found very quickly, but Murphy lost no time getting a handle on the situation, and she was quick down another hole and giving the groundhog the business.

We tied up Mountain and Pearl, and Murphy bayed it up nicely, pushing the groundhog to a bottle, before we dug down for a dispatch. Murphy came out without a scratch. Excellent!

We noodled around a bit more, checking a lot of blank holes (I have thinned out this farm some in the last six months), and Murphy gloried in chasing Canada Geese, and busting out a Meadow Lark. Her destiny is to be a hawker's dog (Doug hunts Harris and Red-tail hawks), and I think she has all the right stuff for that; a very "birdy" terrier.

Mountain found again in another sette, and we figured we had it bottled it up nicely when it managed to bolt out and dive down into another nearby hole. Undeterred, we dug on, but at a certain point I figured the groundhog had gotten away and we began to fill in two small and shallow exploratory holes we had knocked into this second sette. Of course, just as we finished that little bit of cleanup, Mountain opened up to a solid bay. Isn't that always the way? We cleared out one of the holes we had just filled in, expanded it a bit, and dispatched the second groundhog of the day.

The third groundhog of the day was quite a character! Murphy pinged on this one first, coming into a sette just below the edge of the creek. She could not get in very far in, but she sure was trying!

Meanwhile, Mountain and Pearl were pinging on another hole about 20 feet away. I did not think the two holes were connected, as Murphy seemed to be angling the wrong way to get to where Mountain and Pearl were marking, but time proved me wrong -- again!

A bit of digging and we found Murphy baying out of the left side of the pipe, and Pearl baying out of the right. We located the groundhog, but while expanding the hole a bit with a posthole digger the groundhog sprang straight up and bolted. I was fast on it, and Pearl was right behind me.

The groundhog managed to scoot up a short tree (Yes, they can climb!) and before I knew it, Pearl was up after her. I was rather astounded to see Pearl climb about 15 feet into the air, splayed out on pretty thin branches, pushing the groundhog to the end of its rope.

Of course, it was about the end of the rope for Pearl too, and I was bit worried about an aerial battle between these two characters, and so I knocked the groundhog out of the tree with a well-placed toss of the shovel.

The groundhog tumbled out of tree, ran down the bank, met my boot, rolled out underneath it, slid down the bank, swam the creek, climbed the next bank, and went to ground in another earth.

By this time Pearl had slid out of the tree in a rather ungainly bounce down the branches, but she was unfazed, and followed the groundhog down the bank, across the creek, and to ground on the other side.

It was getting a bit long in the day now, and Doug had a five hour drive home, so we crossed the creek, noted where Pearl had gone to ground, and walked the other dogs back to the truck to wash out their eyes and put them up.

Pearl stayed at her game, and so I wished Doug well on his ride back, shouldered tools again, and went down to dig out Pearl. In truth, she was having a ball, and the dig was not deep or complex, and I was down to the dog and the groundhog in short order.

And yes, I let this one go. Any groundhog that will run, climb, fly, swim, and dig is one I want to keep in the gene pool. May this one have a very long and fecund life!


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear

In We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear Alston Chase has pioneered what I think is a new literary genre; a metaphysical memoir with dogs.

After a career in academe, and a tour as an author of books on the role of fire in the ecology of the Yellowstone and the mind of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Alston comes to Montana looking for a new pair of glasses through which to see the world, and he is as surprised as anyone when they appear in the form of a series of small terriers which serve as a window into the land and the forces that have made it.

A lot of men dream about abandoning the maddening crowd, but few take the plunge to jungle up in a cabin 40 miles from a road in the winter -- and even fewer manage to talk their wives into joining them for the adventure!

We Give our Hearts to Dogs to Tear is more than a memoir about small dogs in Big Sky country, however; it is also a book about an adventurous life, an intrepid wife, and the passing of the baton from one generation to another.


What lasts? Alston Chase's surprising answer is a simple one: the dogs and the land.

Now available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Check it out!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day



You are here.

You will never be anywhere else.

Take care of it.
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Never Been in a Dog Show



"I have the greatest job in the world ... I have not, nor will I ever be, in a dog show ... I've never worn a leash ... just like my master ... Tractor Supply Company ... the stuff you need out here."
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Winged Weapons of Mouse Destruction


A young Falco sparverius. The American Kestrel or Sparrow Hawk, sometimes called a "spar", is actually a small falcon.


Humans like to think that we see well -- a vanity we cultivate by comparing ourselves to dogs, rats and other mammals that mostly see in black and white, grays, light yellows, and blues.

In fact, most mammals have a sharply reduced visual spectrum because early mammals went through a very long period when almost all of them lived an entirely nocturnal existence.

Most mammals are still nocturnal. If you wonder where the raccoons, possum, deer and fox are in your area, the answer is that most move about only at night. The rest of the time they are resting up in thick tangles of growth, tucked up into underground dens or hollow trees, slumped into small depressions and wallows, and otherwise "loafing on the couch," just out of eyesight.

Since most humans never stray far from car or path -- and almost never venture into dense tangle or on to even slightly swampy ground -- the critters remain undiscovered.

Animals that are mostly nocturnal do well with eyes that see very little color.

The canine eye is a good example. Though your dog may sleep all night (and half the day too!) it is still only a few thousand years removed from its wolf or proto-wolf progenitor; not enough time for physical evolution of the canine eye to have occurred.

The bottom line is that dogs do not see very well -- not even sight hounds or seeing eye dogs. In fact, dogs seem to see only about one-sixth as well as humans.

Not all mammals see in a reduced spectrum, however. The progenitors of old-world apes experienced a mutation millions of years ago that resulted in more cones and rods being added to their eyes. The result is a wide range of color vision among old-world apes (chimps, gorillas, orangutans) and their cousins, we humans.

Surprisingly, some of the oldest and most primitive animals on the planet have a wider spectral rangethan humans and chimps. This includes reptiles and the likely descendants of dinosaurs -- birds.

Anyone who has tried to stalk a wild turkey knows how incredibly sharp their eyes are. In fact, all birds have remarkable eyesight. It's been estimated that a common sparrow hawk, for example, could read a newspaper from 25 yards away, while an eagle can spot the twitching ears of a rabbit from a distance of two miles.

The reason avian acuity is so high is that a bird's eye is built entirely differently from that of a human or a dog. For one thing, the retina of a bird is enormous.

The retina is the screen at the back of the eye on which an image, coming through the lens, is focused. This screen is composed of light-sensitive rods and cones, with the rods registering shapes and the cones differentiating colors.

On rods alone, the avian eye far eclipses that of the dog or the human. A human eye, for example, has about 200,000 rods, while an eagle has about a million -- five times more.

The true knockout blow for birds, however, is in the cone department. It turns out that many birds, and especially birds of prey, have cones in their eyes that enable them to see a much wider spectrum than we can, and for some birds -- such as the American Kestrel or sparrow hawk (actually a kind of small falcon) -- this spectrum includes ultraviolet light.

What's the benefit of being able to see in the ultraviolet spectrum? Simple: mouse urine glows purple in ultraviolet light (one reason "black light" is used to find old pet urine stains on wooden floors).

When a sparrow hawk hunts along a hedge, it is able to look for urine stains that mark mouse holes, runways and nests.

Mice and rats mark their burrows and runways with urine scent trails because, like most mammals, they do not have very good eyesight. Scent cues help rats and mice orient themselves in the complex world of hedge, forest, field and barn. The result is that a rat or mouse can "run" a scent trail very fast without spending time in the open trying to figure things out.

Experienced human ratters know this about rodents, and so they will drag their boot across the middle of a shed and spin long boards perpendicular to where they have been lying, all in an attempt to break up or disturb invisible scent trails. A few seconds hesitation by a confused and disoriented rat is just the edge a terrier needs to even the odds on the farm.

For a sparrow hawk, visible urine trails enable it to focus on areas where small rodent activity is heaviest. By simply flying over a hedge or field, and then lighting on a fence post, telephone pole, or dead tree near visible urine marks, a sparrow hawk can dramatically increase its chance of finding lunch.

Once activity in the grass is spotted, a sparrow hawk will face into the wind and hover low over a grassy area -- a tactic that earned it the name "windhover" or "wind fucker" in 17th Century Holland, when the terminology was considered a little less offensive that it is today.

As for ultraviolet vision, it's not all about food -- it's about sex too. It seems that all those rather drab-looking birds we see in the hedge look a lot prettier when they are seen through the lens of an ultraviolet-sensitive eye.

Birds species in which male and females look very much alike to us look very different to the birds themselves, as they have twice as many cones in their eyes and so can see shade and colors we miss altogether.

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Modest Mouse; the Backbone of a Food Chain

A repost from 10/14/07

Mountain was checking out a den at the edge of a corn field last week when, on a hunch, I peered into a hollow fence post and found this little fellow tucked in and waiting for me and the dogs to move on.

This is a white-footed deer mouse -- the purveyor of Lyme disease, and one of the most important elements on the food chain for fox, hawks and snakes.

For more information on the importance of red fox as a control for white-footed deer mice, see >> Red Fox as Healthy Weapons of Mouse Destruction
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Monday, April 21, 2008

Bill Clinton Makes a Barack Obama Commercial



I'm not sure Bill Clinton meant "Vote Obama" when he said this back on October 25, 2004, but there is is.

Of course, common sense and smart ideas may not be enough in Pennsylvania, where even the Governor, says 1 in 20 people are Kloset Klansman. We'll see.
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Lyme Disease: Hard to Catch and Easy to Halt

People like to be scared -- that's why there are roller coasters -- and a lot of people live their lives scared of just about everything, no matter how irrational.

Take Lyme Disease. This is a very-hard-to-get and very-easy-to-cure disease, as the article below makes clear, yet there is no end to the fear people express. You are going into the woods? You are spending a day in the field?

In fact, not only is Lyme Disease hard to get, it is easy to treat and generally, even if your dog catches it, it will be asymptomatic.

How easy is Lyme Disease to treat? Consider this: doxycycline, which is the universal treatment for Lyme, is available without a prescription. Just order the Bird-Biotic version from Amazon or Revival Animal Health (100 capsules of 100 mg doxyclines will be less than $30) for a quick prophylactic dose if you are really worried after finding a tick on yourself, or a curative dose if you or your dog comes down with symptoms.

If you want to spend money and time with doctors and vets, knock yourself out, but in this case there may be a better use for these two precious resources.

Another point: Never get your dog tested for Lyme disease. The tests are entirely worthless, racking up more false positives than true positives, and suggesting expensive treatment even in asymptomatic animals.

Also, never get your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease; this too is another veterinary scam. Remember, Lyme disease in dogs is rare, it is never fatal, and it is easily treatable. If you veterinarian insists on a Lyme disease test because your dog is limping, he or she is either incompetent, or billing you for an medically unnecessary procedure (or both). Remember the Lyme disease tests are worthless; the huge number of false positives here mean that you are paying for nothing.

If Lyme disease is suspected in a limping dog, the proper protocol is to dose the dog with doxycycline ( 5 mg per pound of dog, twice a day). If the dog gets better after a few days, keep it on a daily regime for 5 weeks and everything will be fine.


Lyme Disease Is Hard to Catch and Easy to Halt, Study Finds
By Gina Kolata, New York Times (June 16, 2001)

Lyme disease is very difficult to catch, even from a deer tick in a Lyme-infested area, and can easily be stopped in its tracks with a single dose of an antibiotic, a new study shows.

And two other studies conclude that prolonged and intensive treatment with antibiotics, a course of care advocated by a small group of doctors, does nothing for people with symptoms often attributed to chronic Lyme disease.

These findings are in keeping with the assertions of researchers who say that in most cases, such symptoms have nothing at all to do with the disorder. The three studies, scheduled to be published on July 12 in The New England Journal of Medicine, were released yesterday because the journal's editors thought they were so important, with the onset of summer and the accompanying fear of Lyme disease.

"This is reassuring information for people who make decisions based on evidence," said Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen, the journal's editor in chief.

Researchers, both those associated with the studies and others who were not, said they hoped the findings would ease what they called inflated public fear of Lyme disease, which is widely perceived as a grave illness that is easy to catch.

A total of 16,019 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999; 92 percent of those cases were in nine states, most of which are in the Northeast, including New York and Connecticut.

Dr. Leonard H. Sigal, a Lyme disease expert at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, who was not associated with the studies, said the message from them was that "Lyme disease, although a problem, is not nearly as big a problem as most people think." "The bigger epidemic," Dr. Sigal said, "is Lyme anxiety."

The study to see whether a single dose of the antibiotic doxycycline could prevent Lyme disease was directed by Dr. Robert B. Nadelman, a professor of medicine at New York Medical College and attending physician at the Westchester Medical Center, both in Valhalla, N.Y. Dr. Nadelman said many doctors, in hopes of heading off Lyme disease infection, had been giving 10-to-21- day courses of the antibiotic to people who had found deer ticks on their bodies. "They would be treating people as if they actually had the disease," he said. He and his colleagues wondered whether one dose would be enough. They recruited 482 people in Westchester County, N.Y., where the incidence of Lyme disease is among the highest in the world. All had found deer ticks on their bodies. (The insects were identified by entomologists.) Half got a single dose of doxycycline, taken in the form of two capsules, and the others got two dummy capsules. The investigators found that the drug did prevent Lyme disease: just one person, 0.4 percent of those who took it, came down with the illness. But even among those who took the placebo, the chances of getting the disease was just 3 percent.

Dr. Eugene Shapiro of Yale University School of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial, noted that the antibiotic often caused nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain and that among those who took it, there would have been very little chance of getting Lyme disease in any case.

People who are bitten can watch the site where the tick fed, Dr. Shapiro said, and if they develop a rash within a few weeks, they can take a full course of antibiotics. "Give that person 10 to 21 days of antibiotics," he said, "and they will be fine." Dr. Sigal agreed. He added that deer ticks crawl around the body for hours before settling down to feed, and during that time are easily washed off with a washcloth. And, he said, "even if you get the disease, it is easily treatable and it is curable."

But Dr. Jesse L. Goodman, a Lyme disease expert at the University of Minnesota, said some people were so horrified by the possibility of getting Lyme disease that even a 3 percent risk was too much for them. "As a physician, I could respect that," Dr. Goodman said, adding that he would offer those people doxycycline. Lyme disease researchers emphasized, however, that previous studies had shown that most people with the infection get better on their own, without antibiotics. And while a small percentage develop serious symptoms, like arthritis or heart disorders, even the vast majority of these get better, the researchers said.

Dr. Raymond Dattwyler, director of the Lyme Disease Center at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said the typical Lyme disease patient has a rash but no other symptoms, takes an antibiotic and is cured. The two other studies released yesterday, financed by the National Institutes of Health, addressed the question of how to treat people who had Lyme disease and later developed symptoms like fatigue, aches and pains, and memory loss. Both were conducted by Dr. Mark S. Klempner of Boston University School of Medicine and his colleagues. One study enrolled patients who had antibodies to the Lyme disease microorganism, Borrelia burgdorferi, an indicator that they had been infected. The other enrolled patients who no longer had antibodies but had had a documented case of Lyme disease. Half the patients in both studies received an intravenous antibiotic, ceftriaxone, for a month, followed by oral doxycycline for 60 days; the others received dummy medications. The question was, Would this intensive antibiotic treatment make the patients better? The studies were meant to enroll 260 patients, but they ended early, after enrolling just 129 patients, because an independent committee overseeing them said it had become clear that the antibiotics were no more effective than the placebos. Dr. Shapiro said he was not surprised.

Although a small group of doctors and patients insist that symptoms like fatigue and memory loss after a bout with Lyme disease are due to chronic infection with the disease organism, those symptoms are very common among the general public, leading Dr. Shapiro and others to believe there is some other cause. "Whatever is going on with these patients," he said, "if it is unresponsive to antibiotics, it is unlikely that it is untreated Lyme disease."

In contrast, antibiotics have been shown to work extraordinarily well when, for instance, the Lyme organism has demonstrably infected the brain, Dr. Dattwyler said.

But some who have treated hundreds of patients with long-term antibiotics, like Dr. Sam L. Donta of Boston University Medical Center, were not convinced. The antibiotics in the studies were not given for a long enough time, Dr. Donta said, and he would have chosen different ones. Perhaps all that the studies show, he said, is "that this particular treatment doesn't work."

Dr. Brian Fallon, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, is directing another study of chronic Lyme disease that focuses on patients who have problems with fatigue, their memory and their ability to think. In his study, also supported by the National Institutes of Health, the patients receive intravenous antibiotics for 10 weeks, or a placebo. Dr. Fallon said he saw many such patients in his private practice and would continue to refer them to colleagues for long-term treatment with intravenous antibiotics. Dr. Sigal said, however, that in addition to the expense of long-term intravenous antibiotics - and some patients end up taking them for years - the drugs are dangerous. Some patients have died of infections caused by the catheters in their bodies, and others have experienced side effects from the drugs, including destruction of bone marrow, requiring a bone marrow transplant. "These are not benign drugs - they're all poisons," Dr. Sigal said. When they are needed to fight an infection, their risks, of course, are outweighed by their benefits. But when there are no benefits, he added, the risks are naturally unacceptable.

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Closet Bigots and Their Make-weight Questions


The great John Prine, who sung about it 40 years ago.

Did you ever wake up with a question? I do, most days. Some days it's "why the hell does every joint in my body ache?" but this morning it was "who the heck was that thick-necked, flat-headed, dim-witted woman ABC News put up in the debates the other night? I mean this moron could not even ask a question??!!

Armed with a complete name and an address, it was not hard to find that others had asked the same question. Jake Tapper at ABC (some irony here!), notes that:


McClatchy tracks down Nash McCabe of Latrobe, PA, the 52-year-old woman now best known nationally for asking Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., during the ABC News debate about his not wearing an American flag lapel pin, an example for many critics (including Obama) of how trivial American politics (and American media coverage) has become.

Out of work, "McCabe met her husband, Lloyd, in April 1983 at a dance. They married two months later. Six months after that, she says, he was injured in a coal mine accident. He hasn't worked since. They never had children. He had back surgery. The muscle relaxers he took damaged his heart. He's had three bypasses, nine angioplasties, seven stents and a pacemaker. Three months ago doctors found a brain tumor. His choice: surgery that he may or may not survive, or life in a wheelchair" -- he's scheduled to surgery two days after the Pennsylvania primary.

"Over 25 years of marriage, McCabe was the breadwinner. She said it took eight years to get her husband disability payments, during which time they racked up huge bills."

She's been a nurse's aide, a cashier, secretary then manager of a cleaning company that closed. She was recently laid off from a job as a clerk-typist. She and Lloyd have borrowed money from her parents. She recently inquired to see if she and her husband qualify at a food bank.

And yet, given the opportunity to ask a possible future president of the United States, she asked about a flag pin.


Aw jeez. But the question is not really answered here, is it? I mean the woman is clearly an idiot with a lot of problem, and she cannot get her priorities straight to save her life, but Why and How did she get on national TV? How did ABC News manager to stir this muck up from the bottom of the pond? Did they do weeks worth of focus groups in Western Pennsylvania?

A bit more light drilling, and I come to this article on the blog of The Philadelphia Daily News which notes that:



"ABC News found Nash McCabe the old-fashioned way -- they read about her,
and her thing with the American flag, in the New York Times earlier this month .... So Nash McCabe wasn't located at random at all. Instead, someone at ABC News decided that they wanted to go after Obama on the patriotism issue, and they actively sought a Pennsylvanian who they knew wanted to bring it up ....

That original New York Times article (by a former Newsday colleague, Paul Vitello), the one that started this whole ball rolling. It wasn't really about flag pins or patriotism.

It was about race.

Here's the headline over the picture of Nash McCabe: "In Ex-Steel City, Voters Deny Race Plays a Role."

Vitello writes that he found little support for Obama in Latrobe [99% white], and the crux of his article is this:

But when dismissing Mr. Obama, voters in this former steel center, whatever their racial feelings, seem almost compelled to list their reasons, if only to pre-empt the unspoken race question.

Because he voted “present” too often as an Illinois state senator.

Because he speaks very well, but has not talked about reviving the coal industry.


Because he would not command the respect of the military.

Because there is something unsettling about his perfect calm, they say.


So, The New York Times is basically stating that many voters are finding odd or vague reasons not to support a candidate who president who happens to be black. And without any thought to the subtext, ABC News plucked one of those reasons and brought it to the center stage of democracy.

Yes they did.

This phenomenon of closeted bigots raising make-weight excuses to be opposed to Barack does not start and end with the troubled, dim-witted Nash McCabe though, does it?

I see folks picking at nits with Obama while ignoring McCain's push to gut Social Security and Medicare, the Iraq war dead, the Iraq war injured, the mounting national debt, the war mongering against Iran, the rising price of gasoline at the pump, the collapsing economy, McCain's push for a massive amnesty for illegal aliens, McCain's past support for gun control, McCain's adultery, the Keating Five corruption fiasco, McCain's pyrotechnic temper, McCain's refusal to release his taxes, McCain's obvious memory lapses, McCain's tenuous grasp of key foreign policy facts, and McCain's refusal to release his medical history.

Do I think racism underpins the creation of make-weight questions about Obama?

I certainly do. When people ignore the broken fundamentals of John McCain while creating contrived problems about flag pins with Barack Obama, there is not much question as to what is going on. This is an attack plan that fools no one.
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Saturday, April 19, 2008

American Coyote Lurchers, Old and New



There's a history of working coyotes with lurchers and long dogs in the American west. The top five pictures in this post were taken in Montana between 1910-1920, and some of the other photos were taken in Nebraska and Colorado. Several have an unknown origin (I keep these things pretty randomly on my hard drive as I come across them).




Lurchers and long dogs still run coyote in the American West, along with jack rabbits, which are actually a kind of hare. The American dogs are mostly greyhound and staghound crosses, and tend to be a little bigger than their UK counterparts.






While a red fox anywhere in the world, averages 12-15 pounds, a western coyote weighs an average of 35-45 pounds, and the eastern variant runs even larger (45-55 pounds).





Two running dogs are generally required to take down a coyote and avoid injury to the lurcher or long dog. Even absent a run-in with barbed wire, the potential of getting a dog wrecked working coyote is enough to give most people pause.

A coyote is a serious animal -- it is not a big fox.






The pictures, above, shows a pair of modern American coyote trucks -- a Geo Tracker on top, and a larger Chevy truck on the bottom. The dogs are loaded in the back and released with the pull of a string when a coyote is spotted in the basin-and-range country of the American west. These pictures are from Dan Gauss, whose Shot on Site blog is in the blogroll on right, and there are more pictures here. All these shots were taken at the annual coyote hound swap meet and races held in Loomis, Nebraska on the first Friday-Saturday of October by Dan.

The land here in the U.S. is so vast here that most people in Europe cannot fathom it. To put it in perspective, the U.S. is more than 66 times bigger than England, and 38 times bigger than all of the UK. All of the UK, with a population of over 60 million, is smaller than Oregon, which has a population of over 3.5 million . . . and Oregon is crowded when compared to states like Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Idaho.

The pictures below are from the Badlands Tradewinds Kennel in South Dakota, and show modern U.S. coyote-lurchers. As you can see, not much has changed from 100 years ago.





Coyotes now reside in every state of the Union except Hawaii, and some states will actually pay you to kill them (my home state of Virginia has a bounty on them, for example). That said, despite the fact that 500,000 coyotes a year are taken in the U.S. (mostly by gun and trap), the numbers keep going up.



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Aldo Leopold on Gadgets and Fox Hunting


Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopoldwas one of the most important people in the history of U.S. conservation. A 1909 graduate of the Yale Forestry School, Leopold wrote first the book on Game Management (it is still in print and it is still used at a text book), and was the first person to predict that the widespread extirpation of wolves through poison and trapping would result in an explosion in the deer population that, in turn, would wipe out much of the understory of American forests. Most famous for his eco-philosophical journal A Sand County Almanac, about his Wisconsin farm, Leopold also explored the role of wilderness and hunting in American culture.

In an early essay entitled Wildlife in American Culture, Leopold noted that even in the era before World War II, "the gadgeter, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer," was dominating the sporting press and warping America's understanding of the outdoors.

The phenomenon is very easy to see today, with hunting and fishing magazines centered less on wildlife and wild places than on the Quad Bikes, scent sprays, lures, bait, and expensive guns, rods, and reels that we are told we will need before we even think about going into the woods.

This ethos has now expanded into the world of camping and hiking, where everything has to be rip-stop, multi-fuel, Goretex, and composite construction. Not only must everything be lighter weight, there must be more luxury and options than ever before. As Leopold noted in this 1940-era essay, describing the beginning of the modern ethos:

"Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto trunk, and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage. The traffic in gadgets adds up to astronomical sums, which are soberly published as representing 'the economic value of wildlife.' But what of cultural values?"

The great thing about fox hunting and terrier work is that, with the exception of the locator collar, the equipment we use to today would need no explanation to Jaques Du Fouilloux (1560) or Sir Walter Scott (1810). Nothing much has changed, and very little has gone "high tech," in large part because the intervening variable -- the dog -- is immune to mechanical intervention.

At its core, the fox hunter is a primitive hunter and the dog is a primitive animal. As Leopold noted about mounted American fox hunting (which has never included killing the animal being chased):

"Fox-hunting with hounds, backwoods style, presents a dramatic instance of partial and perhaps harmless mechanized invasion. This is one of the purest of sports; it has real split-rail flavor; it has man-earth drama of the first water. The fox is deliberately left unshot, hence ethical restraint is also present. But we now follow the chase in Fords! The voice of Bugle-Anne mingles with the honk of the flivver! However, no one is likely to invent a mechanical foxhound, nor to screw a polychoke on the hound's nose. No one is likely to teach dog-training by phonograph, or by other painless shortcuts. I think the gadgeteer has reached the end of his tether in dogdom."
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Hunting Fox with Eagle, Saving Wildlife With Film



Felix Rodríguez de La Fuente hunting Red Fox with a Golden Eagle in Spain. Felix Rodríguez de La Fuente was a world-class falconer and more-or-less the Spanish equivalent of Jacques-Cousteau-meets-David-Attenborough.

His wildlife narratives (complete with multiple-camera crews, transportation, etc.), were paid for by a rich Saudi prince who recognized his extraordinary abilities with Golden Eagles and the fact that he was a once-in-a-lifetime character who might translate well on to film.

Felix Rodríguez de La Fuente died in 1980 in an airplane crash in Alaska, and his funeral was attended by thousands. Today, there are several statues of him in Spain, where he is a national hero for his efforts to popularize and protect Iberian wildlife.

Rodríguez de La Fuenta's films have recently been digitally remastered which is terrific, as a whole new generation of folks can now see them.

Whatever you think aesthetically about filmed (and yes sometimes partly staged) wildlife shows a-la Frank Buck, Wild Kingdom, Steve Irwin, Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough, there can be little doubt that these things have done a great deal of good for wildlife and wild places, because they have let people know what is out there and what is at risk of being lost.

That said, it is always fun to mock these things a little bit, and the segment below is pretty rich. Can you figure out who is playing "Cousteau?" I think this might be his only good performance ever!


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And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda ...



A short rant on Iraq
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Friday, April 18, 2008

Golden Eagles Hunting Chamois or Goat



In Spanish, and a bit long, but some jaw-dropping photography here. A warning that this video does show nature "red in tooth and claw." Or red in beak and claw, if you prefer.
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Wild Cougar Shot in Chicago



A 122-pound male cougar was shot in a bustling, trendy North Side Chicago neighborhood on Monday night. Where did the animal come from? Biologists say they suspect DNA tests will show it is the same one spotted numerous times in Wisconsin making its way toward Illinois over the past three months (click on map at right for sighting notes and calendar), and that he is a wild cougar that came from the Black Hills of South Dakota, meaning this is an animal that traveled more than 1,000 miles.

Young male predators typically move out on long migrations in search of new territories and mates, and it's been known for a long time that cougars are coming East.

The Midwest and East were part of the original home range of the cougar, and we certainly have enough wild game and wild lands to support a returning population. And Mother Nature, bless her heart, does abhor a vacuum.

Since 1990, about 40 cougar sightings have been confirmed, mostly in Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, but there are rumors and some small sign that a few animals may already be in Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. No conclusive evidence yet, and it may only be leaping at shadows (probably is), but there is no doubt that cougar are coming East. On that point, we can be sure.

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Apocalypse Dogs of San Francisco


Fire and smoke from the 1906 San Franicisco Earthquake.

One hundred and two years ago today, the great San Francisco Earthquake struck. Up in the hills surrounding San Francisco, it was not clear how badly the City had been hit, but it soon became evident when hill residents found packs of dogs running up from the shattered City:

It was the dogs, wild with fear, couriers of the cataclysm, that gave me the first measure of our calamity... They had come far, for they ran slowly. Their jaws were dripping. They moaned and whined. All of them panted steadily up the steep hill. Then and thus I knew that, bad as it had been with us, on the hills the darker chapters of the story of woe were to be read on the lowlands and in the valleys. We were shaken but safe; below us were nameless horrors, the dogs knew, and knowing, ran to the high places.


The earthquake struck at just past five in the morning, and many buildings fell, but not all. The brick structure of The St. Francis Hotel, for example, initially remained sound.

Chef Victor Hirtzler and his staff swept out the kitchen and served breakfast in the café to tenor Enrico Caruso and other members of the Metropolitan Opera Company who, still in their pajamas, had fled to the Saint Francis after their own hotel began to crumble.

The young actor John Barrymore came in to the hotel just as the Earthquake struck and, stone drunk, seemed not to notice that the ground was violently shaking. He went upstairs to his room and went back to sleep until secondary alarms announced that fires were begining to race through the City.

San Francisco was burning. Most of the city was wood, and even when outside walls were made of brick, the tar roofs of the day burned, exposing wooden rafters and joists to licking flames.

The heat was so intense, it melted glass. Thick greasy smoke billowed miles into the air, choking residents who had little recourse except to let the city burn.

And burn it did, for three days, until at last there was nothing more for the flames to consume.

Dazed residents wandered the streets on the fourth day, stunned that they were alive and devastated by their loses.

Five days after the earthquake struck, work men looking for bodies in the rubble of the Saint Francis Hotel found the wine steward's fox terrier alive in the hotel basement. The dog was christened "Francis," and he came to be a symbol of the the City's endurance.

Just 19 months after the great San Francisco Earthquake and fire, the St. Francis Hotel reopened - proof to the world that City would triumph over adversity.

Today the Saint Francis Hotel still stands, and a children's book has been written about the little dog found in its basement.



The rubble of San Francisco's Chinatown after the 1906 Earthquake.
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These Are the Good Old Days



"They don't make them like they used to," says the fellow patting the hood of a '57 Chevy.

No they don't -- they make them better.

Today cars steer with one finger, have batteries that never need topping off, pollute less, get more miles per gallon, and have seat belts and air bags to boot.

So it is with many other things.

Take wildlife -- there's more of it now than there used to be.

Today, across the U.S., we have more whitetail deer, red fox, raccoon, coyote, possum, groundhog, Gray fox, black bear, wolf, duck, geese, moose, beaver, turkey, elk, alligator, cougar and bald eagles than we have had at any time in the last 100 years.

And the numbers keep going up.

The world of working terriers is better too. Getting out to a farm is pretty quick in an air-conditioned car. No one is riding 20-miles to a hunt on a horse, and then, at the end of a long day, riding 20-miles back.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scottish Terriers: Show Dogs from the Beginning


American Scottish terrier show, 1915

Working Terriers: Their Management, Training, Work, Etc., by J.C. Bristow-Noble was first published in 1919. The author quickly dismisses the Scottish terriers as workers, noting that:


"I shall not say anything about the breeds of Scotch terriers, for, although some of the individual members of the different breeds are often useful in the field of sport, in the aggregate the dogs cannot come under the heading of workers. The fox terrier and the comparatively new breed of terrier -- the Sealyham -- are the workers, and paradoxical as it may sound, the better bred these are, of less value are they for work. As a matter of fact, all the best workers are either cross-bred fox terries or cross-bred Sealyhams."


If you read this paragraph carefully, three points are being made: 1) That the real working terriers of the early part of the 20th Century were what we would call Jack Russell Terriers today; 2) The more a dog was bred for looks, the less likely it was going to do well in the field, and; 3) By the turn of the 20th Century, Scottish terriers were seen as kitchen companions and show dogs, not working dogs found in the field.

The Scottish Terrier was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1879 (six years after the UK Kennel Club began), and the first terrier entered was Paynton Pigott's "Granite" -- a very long-backed dog, whose dam and sire had both been registered as Cairn Terriers.

To buy a copy of Working Terriers: Their Management, Training, Work, Etc., by J.C. Bristow-Noble, see >> Read Country Books
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cheney to Hillary: "Make My Day"


Headline in The Boston Herald

Cheney Challenges Hillary to Hunting Contest:

One day after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton professed an abiding affection for guns and hunting, her love of firearms came under attack from another sometime hunter in Washington.

Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney said that a hunting contest between him and the New York senator was "the only way" to determine whether Sen. Clinton's tales of her gun prowess were for real.

"To be frank, Hillary Clinton's stories about her adventures with guns don't exactly pass the smell test," the vice president told host Tim Russert. "If she really wants to show that she knows how to handle a rifle, there's an easy way to do that: meet me in the woods."

... But shortly after the vice president issued his challenge, Sen. Clinton seemed to back off from her earlier claims of hunting experience, saying that she had "misspoke" about her hunting exploits as a child.
>> Read the rest of this fascinating story here (Hat tip to J.R. Absher).
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Bruce Springsteen :: Streets of Philadelphia



Did I mention that Bruce Springsteen has endorsed Barack Obama ? 'Tis true.

As Greg Mitchell notes in the article at the above link, Bruce started off apolitical, and "donated a fortune to Vietnam veterans groups, and from there, many other causes, while refusing to endorse candidates."

But, as I have said before, there comes a time. As Bruce Himself put it:

"[Barack Obama] speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where '...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.'"


Mitchell concludes his article by noting that "You might say that Obama just collected one of America's true 'super-delegates.'

Yes, you can. And donations to the cause are still being accepted.
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No-Neck and Skin-Tail






Skin-Tail in the bottom photo, and No-Neck with another fox in the top shot.

The second fox in the top picture is not the big dog fox I saw the other night. This one looks plenty healthy though, so good for No-Neck at finding such a handsome catch to roam around with.

All these fox and raccoon pictures, by the way are taken right in front of my greenhouse, just in front of the kitchen window, not five feet from my front door, in a very suburban neighborhood; proof positive that fox are everywhere, even if they are secretive and night-moving.

We also have quite a few deer about; I have spooked a number of 10-point bucks in the driveway, and I once counted eight deer at once in the back yard.
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Support Mental Health or I'll Kill You

  • This piece was written on April 20th of last year, and is reposted here today, on the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre in which 32 students and faculty were killed by a mentally ill young man.

    As hoped, proper action is being taken to address the real root of the problem. A lot more, of course, remains to be done.

43


Reid Farmer sent me a piece from The Los Angeles Times
in which that august paper suggests that the shootings at Virginia Tech are all about Virginia's "primitive" rural gun culture.

I find that pretty odd, as I have lived in Virginia for a hell of a long time and I am unaware of a gun culture in my state.

Sure some people hunt deer and turkey, but no one I know is reading Soldier of Fortune.

In my neck of the woods, the problem is not guns, but Mara Salvatrucha gang members from El Salvador who occassionally hack each other up with machetes.

I first wrote about Mara Salvatrucha in 1992, when Conrad Hilton's Best Foundation for a Drug-Free Tomorrow paid me to go to East Los Angeles to look at gang violence there. At the time, South Central was still smoldering, but East LA was far more violent, with two-thirds of all gang deaths in the City.

In fact, East Los Angeles remains one of the most violent places on earth. In rural Virginia, on the other hand, the thing that is most likely to kill you is a deer on the road.

The simple truth is that the massacre at Virginia Tech is not about guns: It's about violence, and most importantly, it's about mental illness.

Sadly, there are ferked up people all over, and there is not much intervention anywhere. This nation is heavy with people who are drunk, hazy, crazy, and stoned, but it's pretty damn hard to do anything about it, and that's just as true in Los Angeles as it is in rural Virginia, no matter what the good editors of The Los Angeles Times think.

Why is it so hard to do anything about it?

Simple: back in the "bad old days" of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, there were horrific civil rights abuses and people were locked up in mental wards with little due process (and often no real treatment) for very long periods of time.

The court- and state-ordered antidote to this abuse is that today we have severely restricted the ability of police, schools, families and neighbors to involuntary lock someone up.

You may think someone is a ticking time bomb, but now he or she is going to have to "go off" before anyone can take legal action to stop it. Merely having auditory and visual hallucinations is not enough. Not bathing is not enough. Living on the street is not enough.

Today people have "a right" to not bathe, to see and hear things that are not there, to live in a cardboard box in the park, and to panhandle for change. Similarly, people have "the right" to drink themselves silly on a routine basis, and there are also many who think people have the right to abuse other drugs as well (and why not; sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, they argue).

Add to this the fact that we have decided that people also have the right to drive cars and trucks, to preach odd religious beliefs (your religious beliefs are odd, but mine are not), the right to buy gasoline, the right to buy nitrate fertilizer, the right to own a gun, and the right to buy rat and ant poison, and it's amazing we do not have mass killings every day.

Ultimately, we cannot make the world safe, and crazy people will always figure out a way. For $500 (the cost of just one of the legal guns used at Virginia Tech) you can buy 1,000 pounds of nitrate fertilizer anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley and kill far more people in 5 seconds than this lunatic did with two handguns and a couple of clips. Indeed, the very day that the Virginia Tech massacre was going on in Blacksburg, nitrate bombs killed more than 180 people in Baghdad. Am I the only one that noticed?

The "silver bullet" idea of banning guns is stupid on its face. This nation is awash in heroin, methamphetamine, illegal aliens, counterfeit handbags and watches, and cars that never saw an import sticker. I can get methamphetamine or heroin a lot faster than I can get a legal handgun and a box of bullets, and I live in (supposedly) gun-crazy Virginia.

Here's a hint: If a suburban matron can find an illegal alien to mow her front lawn, and an addict can find an eight-ball of heroin or cocaine, rest assured that criminals and lunatics will be able to find and obtain guns even if they are banned. In fact, they may be able to find them easier and with less oversight than they can now. After all, no one does a criminal background check at a drug dealer's, and there is not a 30-day waiting period for illegal alien jump labor.

Despite the fact that mental illness (and an inability to deal with it) was the obvious problem in Blacksburg, both sides of the gun debate are anxious to have another long-winded "throw down" about the Second Amendment.

And you know why? Because for Sarah Brady, the National Rifle Association, and the editorial writers across the country, gun control is the answer to the only question they REALLY want answered. And that question is this: What topic can I write a direct mail letter or newspaper column about that will generate a lot of money and/or attention?

As far as I can tell, not one of these groups really gives a damn about violence in America. When was the last time that the NRA talked about community-based mental health programs or the need for national health care so that all the crazies can afford their medications? When was the last time Sarah Brady pushed for more therapeutic communities in jail? When was the last time a newspaper or magazine said it would not accept alcohol ads because alcohol fuels so much of the violence in this country?

I am a proud Virginian, and I believe that the people of Blacksburg are not going to chase butterflies, but are going to ask the right question. The right question is: How can we enable people to be more responsible? How can we help people reach out to the troubled and disturbed people within the community, the dorm, the family, the neighborhood, and the job site?

We Virginians may be "primitive" in the minds of the arugula-eating, white-wine-and-brie crowd that edits The Los Angeles Times, but we know our ass from our elbow, and a real solution from a fake.

Above all we know enough to remember our dead for the bright young men and women that they were, rather than focus all the attention on the confused madman who craved media attention and was willing to kill to get it.
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