Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Red grouse, Scotland.
Forbes magazine reports on the "Grouse Crisis" in Scotland:
Park Falls, Wisconsin may be short on single malts, tweeds and pip-pipping. But it's got something grouse hunters in the U.K. could use more of: Birds.
When the heather blooms on the Scottish moors, tweedy gentlemen with bespoke shotguns take to blasting grouse. The sport usually brings $30 million a year to the Scottish economy, according to Glasgow's University of Strathclyde. Recent years, though, have been disappointing.
In 2006 and 2007 heavy rainfall damaged nests. Surviving young fell prey to an outbreak of ticks and to predation by an uncontrolled fox population, fox hunting having fallen into disrepute. This caused sherry-sipping lords to despair that the flush days of the sport might be coming to an end. The 2008 season, which opened Aug. 12 and will conclude in mid-December, has been an improvement, owing to the use of medicated grit to treat parasites and caged watering areas to protect birds from predators. "I should say mixed is a way of putting it," says Edward Hay, director of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. Some moors in North Yorkshire did well, but grouse in parts of Scotland were "virtually nonexistent." Since 1985 tick infestations have gone from 4% of chicks to 92%--not a good sign for the future.
Yet 4,000 miles away and a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Minneapolis lies the Shangri-la of grouse. Fat and happy birds by the tens of thousands are tapping their toes, just waiting to be shot. The lake-abutting mill town of Park Falls, Wis. bills itself as the Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World. Ruffed grouse, named for the iridescent black feathers on their napes, are cousin to the red grouse of the U.K. Like their cousins they spend most of their life on the ground (grubbing for clover, berries and bugs) and fly only to avoid enemies.
Hunters call them "winged dynamite" for their explosive speed and sound. They're the fastest game bird in North America. Whereas most game birds take off like a helicopter -- flying straight up at first, then horizontally--ruffed grouse move like a jet plane with a busted rudder. They take off at an acute angle, sputtering loudly and fishtailing.
Wisconsin being shy on moors, the birds' habitats are groves of aspen, pine and maple. That complicates things: Not only does a hunter have to lead his target, he also has to avoid hitting branches and trunks of trees as he turns to fire. Scottish hunters can use shotguns with 32-inch barrels, which provide accuracy at the cost of weight and snap movement. Wisconsin hunters need light, agile shotguns that can be carried all day through thick woods and maneuvered quickly in tight spots.
Sharp-tailed grouse, John James Audubon print, 1837
This print campaign by TBWA\PHS in Finland is intended to make you wonder if you're actually feeding your dog—or the worms inside him. "
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Moose and Teckel pic ripped from Born-to-track News & Views
What's the difference between a dachshund and a teckel? Mostly the owner in my opinion.
A dachshund owner probably bought the dog because it was cute and along the way he or she discovered that their dogs (a long time ago, and in a land far away) was once used for hunting badgers. Badgers? Oh my! How romantic!
A teckel owner, on other hand, actually has pictures of their dog in the field working groundhog, fox or badger, or blood tracking shot deer, elk or moose. A few shovels and a worn pair of boots and a locator collar are probably in the garage. There isn't a single pair of Manolo Blahnik's in the house.
There are, of course, some differences in the breeding of the dogs. American and British dachshunds tend to be wrecked genetic mutants with turned out feet and chests like pickle barrels. Most are far too big to go down any den hole, and some have bad temperaments and health problems to boot.
Teckels, on the other hand, are bred to the German system which emphasizes strict standards in terms of chest size, and where random breedings are sharply discouraged and standards of kennel upkeep and the quality of dogs is maintained by a "breed warden."
All of this is a small wind up to the fact that there is a nice article by Les Davenport in Deer and Deer Hunting magazine on the use of teckels for blood tracking shot deer, elk and moose.
Entitled "The Little King of Deer Recoveries," the article is well-written and gives a nice introduction to the use of teckels (working dachshunds) for blood tracking shot deer.
Another article on the same topic can be found here.
And for those who are looking to include a new blog on their blog roll, let me recommend Born-to-track News & Views -- a very nice addition to the blog-o-sphere!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Pictures from Walter Gardner's book About the Border Terrier
The two pictures, above, show what Border Terriers looked like around 1916-1920. I think if these dogs were in the field today most people would not call them Border Terriers -- they would be presented as Fell Terriers.
Though some claim an ancient history for the Border Terrier, no breed of terrier is very old and the Border Terrier is no exception, first appearing around 1860, and being so undifferentiated from other rough-coated terriers that they were not admitted to the UK Kennel Club until 1920 -- after first being rejected in 1914.
The true history of the Border Terrier is exceedingly short and simple despite all the efforts to muddy the water with talk of Walter Scott, Bedlingtons, gypsies, and dark dogs seen in the muddy corners of obscure oil paintings. Such stuff is pure bunk.
The Border Terrier was a kennel type of rough-coated terrier of the Fell type bred by the Robson family. John Robson founded the Border Hunt in Northumberland in 1857 along with John Dodd of Catcleugh who hunted his hounds near the Carter Fell. It was the grandson's of these two gentlemen -- Jacob Robson and John Dodd -- who tried to get the Border Hunt's little terrier-type popularized by the Kennel Club.
The first Kennel Club Border Terrier ever registered was "The Moss Trooper," a dog sired by Jacob Robson's Chip in 1912 and registered in the Kennel Club's "Any Other Variety" listing in 1913. The Border Terrier was rejected for formal Kennel Club recognition in 1914, but won its slot in 1920, with the first standard being written by Jacob Robson and John Dodd. Jasper Dodd was made first President of the Club.
For a terrier "bred to follow the horses" the Border Terrier does not appear to have been overly-popular among the mounted hunts. The Border Terrier Club of Great Britain lists only 190 working certificates for all borders from 1920 to 2004 -- a period of 84 years. Considering that there were over 250 mounted hunts operating in the UK during most of this period (there are about 185 mounted hunts today), this is an astoundingly small number of certificates for a period that can be thought of as being over 15,000 hunt-years long. Even if one concedes that borders were worked outside of the mounted hunts, and not all borders got certificates that were recorded by the Border Terrier Club of Great Britain, the base number is so slow that adding a generous multiplier does not change the broad thrust of the conclusion, which is that Border Terriers never really had a "hay day" for work.
The relative lack of popularity of the Border Terrier as a working terrier is borne out by a careful review of Jocelyn Lucas' book Hunt and Working Terriers (1931). In Appendix I Lucas provides a table listing 119 UK hunts operating in the 1929-1930 season, along with the types of earths found (sandy, rocky, etc.) and the type of terrier used.
Only 16 hunts said they used Borders or Border crosses, while about 80 hunts said they preferred Jack Russells, white terriers or some type of fox terrier. Lakelands and Sealyhams, or crosses thereof, were mentioned by some, with quite a few noting "no preference"(hunts are double-counted if they mention two kinds of terriers or crosses of two types).
The Border Terrier does not appear to be faring any better today, with even fewer workers found in the field than in Lucas' times. In fact, there is not a single Border Terrier breed book that shows a border terrier with its fox -- an astounding thing considering the age of the breed and the ubiquitous nature of the camera from the 1890s forward.
A STAGED PHOTO: William Carruthers poses in a photographers studio with a stuffed otter. The dogs shown are "Allen Piper", "Jean" and "Tally Ho," and the picture was taken sometime after 1923
There is some disagreement as to why the border terrier is not more popular in the working terrier community. Some mention the fact that the dogs are often slow to mature. Others note that the dogs are very expensive, while others note that borders are getting too big. Still others note that the dog is now so rarely worked that it is nearly impossible to get a pup out of two real workers.
To say that the border is not popular in the field does not mean that it has fallen out of favor in the show ring or in the pet trade, however! Border terriers are among the top 10 breeds in the UK Kennel Club, and nearly 1,000 border terriers were registered with the American Kennel Club last year -- up about 100 dogs from the previous year.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This is God's plan for Alaska.
What a wonderful thing to happen on Teddy Roosevelt's 150th birthday!
You see, it was Teddy Roosevelt who first moved to protect the Tongass National Forest almost 100 years ago.
In recent years, however, Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young have pocketed a lot of payola from timber companies that sought to cut down 400-year old trees for the cost of a McDonald's happy meal.
Once those trees are gone, they are gone forever.
Unbelievably, under the Tongass and Chugach National Forest timber deals, America was selling public timber to private contractors at a loss.
In fact, U.S. taxpayers have been subsidising a couple of hundred jobs a year at a cost of over $200,000 per job.
Clearly this thing made no sense.
But public resource extraction doesn't have to make sense if people are being paid off.
And when it comes to timber and oil and gas deals in Alaska, everyone is being paid off. Everyone.
Now things are finally beginning to unravel (and more is to come).
First Congressman Don Young was caught on the take.
Today Senator Ted Stevens has been found guilty on felony charges of taking and concealing tens of thousands of dollars in free home renovations and other gifts.
The jury convicted Stevens on all seven counts brought by federal prosecutors. Ted Stevens' career is over, and jail time may yet await.
Happy Birthday Teddy Roosevelt! You always hated scoundrels and looters, and Ted Stevens was both. I know you are up above, absolutely beaming!
This is the modern GOP's vision for Alaska.
Not only is Teddy one of three terriermen on Mount Rushmore (George Washington and Lincoln are the other two), but he is also the father of public lands conservation in the U.S., the creator of both the National Forest and National Wildlife Refuge system, and a great expander of the National Parks system as well.
During his term in office, Teddy Roosevelt set aside 194 million acres of public land for permanent conservation and protection in this great country of ours.
Teddy Roosevelt was also the putative originator of the American Rat Terrier -- a dog formally launched onto the national stage when Teddy picked up a small feist from John Goff while on a bear-hunting expedition out West. Teddy grew very very fond of this dog with which he hunted rats in the basement of the White House, and though it died while he was in office, Teddy later had the dog dug up and reintered at Sagamore Hills so it would still be close to him, even in retirement.
Teddy Roosevelt, of course, was more than a hunter, conservationist and a lover of working terriers. He was also a consummate politician who framed up the "Square Deal" which was aimed at helping America's middle class being bled dry by Wall Street financiers.
Roosevelt's Square Deal plan called for a progressive tax system of the very kind decried by John McCain.
Teddy Roosevelt thought such a system was the hallmark of patriotism and common sense.
The goal, said Roosevelt in words later to be echoed by Barack Obama, was to "pass prosperity around."
In a 1910 speech entitled New Nationalism, republican president Teddy Roosevelt set out an agenda which, nearly 100 years later, is just about as current as this morning's headlines:
"We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. … The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and … a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate."
Teddy Roosevelt went on to talk about the economic panics of his day:
"The people of the United States suffer from periodical financial panics to a degree substantially unknown to the other nations, which approach us in financial strength. There is no reason why we should suffer what they escape. It is of profound importance that our financial system should be promptly investigated, and so thoroughly and effectively revised as to make it certain that hereafter our currency will no longer fail at critical times to meet our needs.
"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself .... Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.".
I was sent the following note about a working terrier bulletin board in the U.K. that has just closed down after several years of operation:
As of 21:00 on 26-10-08 the forum will be closing down, its been misused for long enough, the forum is for FRIENDLY hunting discussion, not arguments, petty comments, violence, and illegal posts that will and can be used against all out sports.. We are all in this for the same reason, we love or should love hunting and its related fieldsports, we should stand together not drag each other down... Its been real good whilst it lasted anyway and i've made some great friends for life on here... Good hunting everyone, hope this seasons a good one for you! - Ian
First off, hat's off to Ian for trying. It was a good effort to try to build community, and the reason it failed had less to do with his efforts that the nature of the beast: online communities always attract folks who have too much time and anonymous posts simply encourage trolls who get their jollies through defamation, vandalism and provoking endless fights.
In the case of terrier work in the UK, of course, there was another concern, one I voiced more than a year ago when it became clear to me that the board was being used as a "honey pot" operation to try to draw people into talking about illegal activity (i.e. fox hunting outside of the narrow confines of the law, and badger work anywhere in the UK).
It did not help, of course, that the board attracted an endless parade of young fools who dug little or none, but who were always anxious to get into an endless round-robin about hard dogs and various cocked up theories about breeding and breeders.
Did the board ever have solid information on how to use a locator collar and box, how to find quarry, how to do at-home vet care for an injured dog? No, little, or none.
Not too many people had any real knowledge, it seemed, and those that did could not be bothered to put it down.
And why should they, when that effort would soon be lost under an endless parade of blather and petty fighting, which are always promoted to the top of these Internet bulletin boards?
And so another online working terrier bulletin board has died.
It is not the first, and it will not be the last.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Two fishermen were left reeling in surprise when they caught a DOG a mile out at sea.
At first when they spotted the animal swimming against the tide they thought it was an otter, but when they realised that it was a dog the two lifted him on board.
Freddie, a 14-year-old cairn terrier, was later reunited with his owner - who revealed that he dislikes water so much that he hates taking a bath and avoids walking through puddles.
Apparently Norwegian Blue Parrots really did exist. A few years back, of course. Extinct now. Check it out.
Dr David Waterhouse, a fossil expert and Python fan, has found that parrots not only lived in Scandinavia 55 million years ago, but probably evolved there before spreading into the southern hemisphere.
His discovery was based on a preserved wing bone of a previously unknown species, given the scientific name Mopsitta Tanta - and now nicknamed the Norwegian Blue.
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting is well-written, packed with information, and well-organized.
Unfortunately, it seems the publishing house has done as much as it possibly can to marginalize this book and keep it out of the hands of those who most need to read it.
That's a pity.
Why do I say the publisher has marginalized this book?
Simple. If you want to convert non-believers to your way of thinking, it's probably best NOT to start off the conversation by poking your finger in their eye and calling them names.
Sadly, however, that is what Regnery Publishing's "Politically Incorrect Guide" series is all about.
This series is not meant to convert people to anything, but to give die-hard conservatives a few cheap debating points to score against the Loony Left.
Which is fine, as far as it goes, but I think this book could have been so much more. You will pardon me if I mourn for what might have been.
You see, while The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting is somewhat flawed it is quite well written, and with a little editing and reframing, it might have been a truly important book. It misses that mark, I am afraid. Good, but no blue ribbon.
Stripped down to its essential frame, Frank Miniter's book has three core messages:
- Modern, regulated sport hunting is generally good for the environment, almost never bad for the environment, and creates a constituency for environmental and wildlife protection that is more meaningful than that generally offered up by arm-chair bunny huggers who tend to be ill-informed romantics;
- Modern, regulated sport hunting benefits all people, from tractor-driving farmers to SUV-driving suburban motorists, and from meat-eaters to vegetarians.
- Without regulated sport hunting, the cost of taxpayer-funded wildlife control would drive up taxes rapidly, even as public land and wildlife initiatives would be left politically weak and economically impoverished.
A lot of Miniter's research is pretty good.
For example, he offers up terrific data on deer-vehicle impacts, and his first chapter on the differences between alligator management in Florida and Louisiana should be required reading in every college.
Miniter correctly skewers the League of Conservation Voters for ignoring non-controversial and popular environmental votes (such as on the Conservation Reserve Program) in order to play up wedge environmental issues that may be less important to the overall picture.
Similarly, Miniter gets it about right when he says a lot of the Big Green organizations are selling out to large corporations and white-shirt-and-tie foundation managers.
He is spot-on when he talks about the failings of the deer immuno-contraception programs championed by the dithering idiots at the Humane Society of the United States.
So where does Miniter go off-track? A couple of places:
- Miniter's first three chapters are about alligators, bears and cougars, and here he suggests that the real reason we hunt animals is so that they will not kill us, which is complete nonsense. Alligators, bears and cougars kill fewer people in this country than swimming pools and lawn mowers. Is control of these animals necessary? Absolutely. Can they be dangerous? Sure. But according to Miniter's own book, alligators, bears and cougars kill less than 8 people a year combined, while 93 people were killed from injuries related to hunting in 2003 alone. I am not opposed to control of bear, cougar and alligator (not to mention wolf) by well-regulated hunting, but let's not suggest that the motivation of hunters is to protect us from the dangers lurking in the woods and swamps, eh? It's simply not true. Most hunters are after sport, a few are after a peak experience and (with bear and cougar) a trophy. The state's motivation for having a regulated hunting season for large predators may partially be to reduce human-wildlife conflict, but that's not why hunters themselves are buying hunting licenses. Admit it and move on.
- Miniter fails to give so much as a nod to a huge swath of American hunting. While Miniter spends a lot of time talking about such rare sport as hunting bear, alligator and cougar, he gives little (generally no) mention of such common fare as rabbit, squirrel, quail, pheasant, duck, grouse, dove, geese, wild pig, groundhog, raccoon, and fox. This is like saying American anglers are all about controlling shark numbers -- never mind that most of us are casting for bass, trout, sunfish, catfish, croakers, stripers, and blues.
- Miniter trims history to fit his thesis. This is a serious problem with ideologues on both the right and the left, and a problem if your goal is to convince and persuade folks to join your side of a debate. Miniter's take is that the Big Green Groups are staffed and managed by bunny-hugging idiots, while hunters are leading the charge for the environment. Sorry, but that's not quiet true. After all, it was the National Audubon Society that sued the Humane Society of the U.S. in order to keeps traps legal in California, and it was Audubon, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society (along with many other small green groups) that led the push to protect 60 million acres of roadless forest across the U.S. The National Rifle Association was nowhere to be seen in that debate. And while Miniter was demonizing liberal environmental organizations as being "anti-hunting," the Sierra Club was sponsoring a "Why I Hunt," essay contest, National Audubon was putting a "Wanted: More Hunters" cover on its magazine, and The Nature Conservancy was busy creating and promoting the kind of conservation easement programs that Miniter speaks so fondly of (and which he fails to give proper credit for).
- Miniter does not give enough credit to Mother Nature, the Endangered Species Act or Big Government programs funded by mandatory taxation. Hunters did not bring back the cougar, the alligator, the bald eagle, the wolf, or the manatee; Mother Nature and the Endangered Species Act did that. And though state wildlife agencies worked very hard to trap, move and reintroduce white tail deer, elk, bison, geese, turkey and beaver into areas where they had been extirpated, it was generally not hunters doing this reintroduction, but state wildlife agencies. Yes hunters paid a lot (but not all) of the tab through a compulsory tax system, but let's not kid ourselves that state wildlife management programs are some sort of voluntary "Point of Light" thought up by Peggy Noonan and Ronald Reagan. In fact, the Pittman-Roberston Act is a Democrat idea (both Sen. Key Pittman and Rep. A. Willis Robertson were Democrats, as was FDR), and at its core this program is all about the power of taxation and the positive roll of Big Government. And, let it be said that Big Government has been doing a generally fine job of restoring wildlife, year in and year out, regardless of which political party was in office (either locally, regionally, or nationally).
So what's the bottom line? Simple: Frank Miniter has written a pretty good book and it's well worth the price.
Buy it and read it.
That said, keep a skeptical mind. When Miniter brags that the NRA (his employer), has two-million members, remember that this is less than one-sixth of all hunters, which is a nice way of saying 84% said of all hunters are not members of the NRA. When you find out that of those 2 million NRA members, only 1 million wanted a free copy of American Hunter magazine, you can figure only 9% of hunters are actually NRA members -- and 91% are not.
Also, ask yourself whether your own hunting access in your area is being improved by the rise of plastic houses in the countryside, or whether it is being constrained.
Above all else, remember that while wildlife may be influenced by political decisions, the wildlife in our forests and fields are not political animals in and of themselves.
The point here is that good science-based wildlife management and land stewardship is NOT going to happen by increasing the divisions between Liberals and Conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, but by unifying this country under the rule of common sense and moderation.
Sadly, this is a mission that Regnery Publishing has never signed up for. And so this book, which might have been great, slips down quote a few notches to the level of "a very good passing read." I really believe it could have been much more. Sadly it is not.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Hedge laying in the UK.
During a single 10-year period (1984-1993), more than one-third of all hedgerows in the United Kingdom were lost -- a whopping 121,875 miles of destruction (see data table here) . At least another 96,000 miles of hedgerow were lost in England from 1945 to 1984.
British hedgerows are fabulously vibrant ecosystems supporting myriad plant and insect species in dense thickets.
An analysis of hedgerows has found a close correlation between the age of a hedgerow and its plant diversity, with some British hedgerows estimated to be as much as 700 years old.
As hedgerows have vanished, so too have seeds and insects that once sprang from these hedgerows. One result is a very rapid decline in sparrow populations in the UK.
Why are the hedgerows disappearing so rapidly? Much of the blame lies with agricultural policy and the desire to boost agricultural outputs by plowing edge-to-edge with ever-larger farm machinery.
In addition, as more and more people have moved into the countryside to live on mini-estates, hedgerows have fallen to new housing developments and road widening.
Though a 1997 law was enacted in the U.K. to try to slow hedgerow destruction, the bulldozers continue to do their work there as they do here.
Last week I was driving a section of Maryland countryside which I had hunted on six or seven years earlier.
Since then, hedge and field have been bulldozed clear and replaced with plastic houses and font laws. "Possum Ridge" it was once called, but there were no possums there now; just plastic toys, playground equipment, fresh cut lawns and asphalt driveways.
To read more about what is happening to the land around Washington and Baltimore (and why) read The Fox Versus the Stork.
Just mention Sarah Palin overseas, and folks burst out laughing. And now the laughter is captured in song! You bet'cha!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
After trailing by 10 points in U.S. rural areas, Democrat Barack Obama is neck-and-neck with Republican John McCain among rural voters in 13 swing states, a potentially key group for winning the White House, according to a poll released on Thursday.
Obama was supported by 46 percent and McCain by 45 percent of 841 likely voters surveyed from October 5-21, as U.S. financial turmoil deepened, according to the poll commissioned by the nonpartisan Center for Rural Strategies in Whitesburg, Kentucky.
A month ago, the poll showed McCain led 51-41. This time, respondents said Obama would do better than McCain on the economy, taxes and "the financial crisis in the country."
Nearly 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas. They tend to be social and fiscal conservatives. President George W. Bush won rural districts nationwide by 19 points in 2004.
LINK TO VIDEO
After the first bit of announcing, there is no sound for a little while (during the sheep herding portion), and then there is an odd segway into dog design as a metaphor for car design.
From 1938, when advertising was still its infancy.
For Obama wearing out his shoes is part of the job. This picture was taken prior to his third resole on this pair. And no, they are not the $525 Italian imports favored by John McCain.
It turns out Sarah Palin has taken over $150,000 of campaign donations and spent it on clothes, including a Louis Vuitton bag for her 7-year old (see slide show at link).
The campaign also trowled $13,200 worth of makeup onto her face in September alone. Wow! What is she hiding under all that foundation? We've all heard about putting lipstick on a pig, but that's ridiculous!
The funny thing is I have always thought Palin looked like she bought her clothes at the bargain rack -- an excusable thing from somone who no doubt lives far from a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales. Silly me! It turns out Sarah Palin simply has bad taste. How else to explain this dowdy look for $150,000?
As for Barack and Michelle Obama, they have gotten fashion respect for being the very essence of good taste.
So, how do they do it? Simple: they buy good stuff off the rack (most of it pretty moderately priced) and they maintain it as if they paid for it themselves (which they did).
And no, that kind of clear level-headed thinking does not cost a fortune. It simply requires good choices, solid discipline and a firm belief that, no matter what the game, it's not about the shoes.
As the wheels come off the McCain bus, and the sagging frame scrapes the tarmac so hard it throws a rooster-tail of sparks into a darkening sky, everyone is moving to distance themselves from what appears to be an inevitable political crash. Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist, for example, has already noted that he buys his suits off the rack at Dillard's department store in Florida.
But still the hits keep coming.
It turns out Sarah Palin charged the state of Alaska over $21,000 for her children to travel with her to events to which they were not invited. When she was caught out on that, she then amended her expense reports to say the kids were on "official business." No explanation for how a 40-minute speech turned into a four-day junket with her daughter in New York City with accomodations at a $700-a-night hotel. . .
This little scandal follows on the heels of the revelation that Ms. Palin used a government "per diem" allowance to charge Alaska taxpayers for more than 300 nights she spent in her own home.
And, of course, there is the house itself. It seems her house in Wassila was built by the same contractor that built that $12 million sports complex (for a town of 6,000). Hmmmmm.
And more seems to come out everday, from no knowing what the Vice President does (it's not to "run the senate" as she had repeatedly said), to demonization of all of America that is not small town and pure white.
And more is yet to come, no doubt. On Friday, Palin will have to give a deposition in the "Troopergate" fiasco. She has already been found guilty of violating state ethics laws by a bi-partisan investigation. Now a the Personnel Commission (which she can fire at will), has to decide whether to sanction her for those violations. No matter what they do, that is sure to be more wood to the fire.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
This groundhog seemed to have a patch of mange.
On Saturday night, after coming in from JRTCA Nationals, Connie and Kelly and I had a terrific dinner and a lot of laughs at Larry and Linda Morrison's.
The next morning I met up with the ladies at Larry and Linda's, and got treated to one of Linda's wonderful breakfasts (biscuits, eggs, sausage, home-made jam, potatoes).
We then loaded up the truck and headed out to a nearby farm to see if we could work off a few calories with shovel, digging bar, and terriers in tow. The weather was about perfect!
The corn had not yet come off of most of the fields, and the creek banks and hedges were dramatically overgrown with multiflora rose and cockleburs.
The ground down by the lower creek appeared to be a bit loggy, so we cut up through the corn to a small wooded copse to see if we could locate a few on higher and drier ground. There we found our first groundhog of the day under a pile of massive old cow femurs and bits of old farm detritus.
The second groundhog of the day was located in a massive multiflora rose break, which we cut down to size in short order with the help of a machete.
Kelly's young dog Lolly (pictured above) got face-to-face with her first groundhog at this hole, and she bayed it up, and then Wager got behind the groundhog and pushed it to bolt into a snare.
The third groundhog of the day (pictured at the top of this post) was located by Connie's dog Wager, who got in and bottled it up very nicely.
By now the day was getting a bit long in the tooth, and we were getting hungry, so we trundled back to the truck for water and cookies, before heading back to the Morrison's for another fabulous meal (deer steaks!) and more laughs.
I was a bit late rolling for home (apologies to the wife), but the time out was well-spent. Good people, good times, good food and good laughs. What more do you want from life? Nothing!
This insane law is a direct result of the "animal rights" movement writing legislation about something they know nothing about and do not understand.
Ironically, the end result, when combined with restrictions on the number of dogs that can be used while fox hunting, is that fox are simply being shot in record numbers as they are now seen as pure pests and have lost all economic value as a hunted (and therefore economically valuable) species.
Even as fox are losing value as a quarry species, their numbers are proliferating due to people feeding them out their back door.
The result, as seen above, can be extreme population densities which are inevitably controlled through the raveages of disease, vehicle impact, or shooting (the picture above is of 23 fox shot in one night on a UK golf course by a professional pest exteriminator).
It is ironic, but true, that nothing has been better for fox than fox hunting! Not only are the mounted hunts inefficient (meaning they could never hope to extirpate fox from an area), but they tended to disburse fox populations and pick off the weaker and sicker animals -- often before they could spread disease to other animals in the fox population.
In addition, the mounted hunts, by creating jobs and a vocal voting political constituency, worked to protect both fox habitat and discourage wholesale fox shooting. Finally, the mounted hunts were responsible for introducing red fox to countries all over the world -- including the United States.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I spent a good chunk of Saturday at the national trial of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America -- the only dog show I go to. As always there were a lot of dogs -- somewhere between 900 and a 1,000 terriers -- and quite a lot of them very good looking examples of the type.
I spent most of my time schmoozing with folks, but I did do a quick cruise of the stalls where I found a first edition (1931) copy of Igloo for sale for $14. I had actually posted a bit about this book a few weeks back, and the price was right so I snapped up the book on the assumption that God clearly wanted me to actually read it.
I did not spend too much time watching the dogs being paraded around the ring (there are no professional handlers at a JRTCA trial), but I did pause to note that this year 30 dogs got Bronze Medallions for having successfully worked three kinds of quarry in the ground (groundhog, red fox, gray fox, raccoon, badger or possum are the options) before a JRTCA hunt judge. For the record, these are real hunts in field, forest or hedgerow, and the JRTCA judges are not paid for their time, their gas, or their expertise. This is all voluntary and 30 Bronze Medallions represents a considerable amount of time in the field.
The weather for the trial was picture-perfect, and to my untrained eyes everything seemed to go off without a hitch.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
From The Onion comes this little treasure:
WASHINGTON, DC—Citing centuries of quality- control issues that have resulted in chronic unreliability, cascading system failures, and even total unit shutdown, the American Pug Breeders Association announced a recall Monday of all pugs produced between February 2006 and the present day.
"We apologize wholeheartedly to any and all owners of the 2007 pug," APBA director Betty McAndrews said at a press conference, standing before a table where 10 defective pugs were displayed. "While pug owners are accustomed to dog malfunction, the latest animals are prone to more problems than just the usual joint failures, overheating, seizures, chronic respiratory defects, and inability to breed without assistance. The latest model pug is simply not in any way a viable dog."
Read the whole thing. A hat tip to Janeen at Smartdogs for pointing this one out to me.
Of course, there is more truth here than you can imagine. As Pugvillage.com notes:
The bottom line regarding Pugs and health is that Pugs are prone to a myriad of genetic health issues, and require more veterinary care than the average breed of dog. If you get a Pug, be prepared to make a lot of trips to the vet... . If you don’t have the time, money or willingness to commit the next 12 years to a dog that may have frequent and significant health problems, don’t get a Pug.
Hmmmm. Maybe another better way of saying that is: "If you object to intentionally and willfully inflicting a lifetime of unnecessary misery on a dog, then club anyone who breeds or even owns a pug."
Because that is what a pug is all about. This is a basket-case of a dog. Due to their pushed-in faces, these dogs are known to overheat while sitting on the couch in an air conditioned room. Run around in a field? Play catch? You have to be kidding! A pug's respiratory system is so defective-by-design (another case of the Kennel Club embracing defect and deformity) that the dog can do little more than catch a cold.
As for giving birth, forget it. Here too the Kennel Club has embraced a standard for defect and deformity, prescribing a dog with a huge head and narrow hips. The result is a dog that not only cannot give birth without cesarean section in most cases, but in many cases it cannot even mate!
Yes, that's right: most pugs are artificially inseminated because the dog is so structurally unsound it cannot even have sex!
But, of course, that's not all that comes with pugs. This dog is also known to have frequent eye problems (cataracts, corneal ulcers, dry eye, ingrown eyelashes, Progressive Retinal Atrophy) as well as elongated soft palettes, encephalitis, hip dysplasia and legg-calvé-perthes to name just a few problems.
And did we mention nearly intractable skin problems? Yep, this dog is likely to have that little misery to contend with as well.
I reviewed one of his books, The Dog Wars: How the Border Collie Battled the American Kennel Club in a previous post on this blog. Check it out!
I also heartily recommend several other books written by Don, starting with Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men, which is about his trip to Scotland to find a working border collie to help him run his sheep farm in Highland County, Virginia (a New York Times best seller).
Two other books by Don McCaig that I enjoyed quite a lot are Nops Trials and Nop's Hope, which are good dog-centered novels.
I have also read A Useful Dog (a 75-page book of good dog essays and stories) and I have Jacob's Ladder on my book shelf, though in truth I have not read it as it is about the Civil War. If you are from Virginia, where Civil War battle fields surround you, you do not go lightly into a book about the Civil War. Maybe this winter.
As for the Gordonsville sheep dog trial, it was ... a sheepdog trial.
How to describe it?
It starts off with a few white dots so far up the field they are mere rumors of wool. From in front of us dogs would start up the hill in a long curving outrun. A small bit of pressure would then be put on the sheep by the dogs as they curve around from the right just uphill from the sheep. The goal here is to put on just enough pressure to generate the "lift." Generally the dog is still quite a long ways away from the sheep when this occurs. With the lift accomplished, and the sheep just beginning to move down hill, the dog would then start the longer portion of the job -- the fetch and drive down the hill, with the woolies required to go through various gates before getting "penned" in a small square-sided bit of four-board fencing.
Needless to say, it's a lot harder than it looks, and some dogs and owners are a better team than others.
At least one dog started an outrun and simply kept going; I'm not sure it even glanced at the sheep. More training needed there!
The penning is the most fun for an ignorant novice like me to watch, as it's easy to understand and well within eyesight. If a dog puts too much pressure on the sheep, they bust left and right. If the dog puts on too little, the dog and the flock stand there eyeing each other in an uneasy Mexican standoff. Too slow and you lose points; too fast and you lose it all.
The land on which this trial took place was drop-dead gorgeous, and right where the spectators and participants were set up to watch the action was a terrific set of old farm equipment, including a steam-powered tractor and locomotive, with big belt wheel on top to drive a lumber mill.
I suppose we gained a lot with the internal combustion engine, but when you look at these old steam engines, if feels like we lost a little something too.
I did not ask Don what he was writing at the moment; these things are best not talked about while in vitro. Suffice it to say I am pretty sure he is writing something, and that when it comes out I will be adding another book to the shelf.
A good writer is hard to find, and Don McCaig certainly qualifies!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Mr. Raccoon was let go to see another day.
Connie M. from California was down in this neck of the woods, and I took off Thurday to go digging on the dogs with her.
We had a blast: perfect weather, and a nice big raccoon on the first hole. We left the raccoon in the open hole so it could bolt to freedom, and when we returned a few hours later we repaired the den.
The rest of the day we knocked off four groundhogs along the creek bank, with shallows digs in excellent and very friable soil. We crossed back over the creek just as the sun set.
I am off to JRTCA Nationals on Saturday and out for more digging on Sunday.
Groundhogs are a kind of large ground squirrel, and can climb trees.
It seems that this election has boiled down to "Joe the Plumber" vs. Bill Ayers.
OK. Fair enough I suppose.
Never mind that three months ago none of us had heard of these gentlemen, and three months from now they will both be small, forgettable footnotes to history.
Never mind that none of this has a thing to do with jobs, the economic collapse, U.S. energy policy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mounting debt, crumbling infrastructure, or the health care system of this country.
Let's talk about Joe the Plumber and Bill Ayers anyway.
What do we really know about Joe the Plumber?
What do we really know about Bill Ayers?
After all, if we are going to cast our votes based on nonsense, we might as well get the nonsense right, eh?
So here are Five Facts on "Joe the Plumber" and Bill Ayers. Enjoy!
Five Facts About "Joe the Plumber"
- Joe is not a licensed plumber, has never gone to school to be a plumber, and has never completed a plumbing apprenticeship program. He is, at best, an unlicensed plumbers helper. Which is a nice way of saying he runs mechanical snakes into toilets crammed with shit because it's the very best job he could find. And no, I am not making fun of him or looking down on him; I am simply describing the job of an unlicensed plumber's helper.
- Joe the Plumber is a registered Republican (not an independent or an undecided voter as first claimed). It also appears Joe the Plumber may be related to Robert Wurzelbacher who is the former senior vice president of American Continental, the parent company of the infamous Lincoln Savings and Loan of Keating Five scandal fame. Robert Wurzelbacher continues to be a major donor to the Republican party and lives in Ohio near where Joe the Plumber lives and works. The collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan cost U.S. taxpayers over $2 billion and permanently sullied the reputation of five U.S. Senators, including John McCain, who was interfering with federal regulators on behalf of Charles Keating, one of his largest campaign contributors. Whether Joe turns out to be related to Robert Wurzelbacher or not, the fact that McCain chose to name "Joe the Plumber" 23 times in Wednesday's debate suggests a campaign which does not research anything. Wurzelbacher?? That's a name McCain should be running from!
- Joe has never had any real plan to buy the plumbing company he works for. Joe has never approached a bank about buying the business, and the business may not even be for sale, as it is really only one person: Al Newell who runs Newell Plumbing and Heating. Joe is simply Al's "plumber's assistant."
- Joe the Plumber is not making more than $250,000 a year. In fact, according to his FY 2006 divorce records, he is making $40,000 a year. Newell Plumbing and Heating (the entire two-person operation) does not even make $250,000 a year. MSNBC reports that "Ohio business records show that [Newell Plumbing and Heating's] estimated total annual revenue is only $100,000. Actual taxable income would be even less than that." Bottom line: If Joe the Plumber is voting his wallet he will do much better under Barack Obama than under John McCain.
- Joe is a tax scofflaw. Records show that Joe Wurzelbacher owes the state of Ohio nearly $1,200 in personal income tax which he has either been unable or unwilling to pay. As a consequence, the state has an active lien on his property to collect back taxes.
Five Fact About Bill Ayers:
- Bill Ayers has never been convicted of anything. And though Bill Ayers admits that in his youth, more than 40 years ago, he was a member of the "Weather Underground," that organization never killed or injured an innocent person (they bombed statues and symbolic properties and always claimed credit for their actions). Three Weathermen did manage to blow themselves up while putting together a bomb in New York City in 1970, but that had nothing to do with Bill Ayers. At the time, Barack Obama was eight years old and on the other side of the world. Bottom line: Cindy McCain's beer distributorship has killed more people and done more damage to America than Bill Ayers and the entire Weather Underground ever did.
- For many decades Bill Ayers has been a well-respected educator, and is currently a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education. He has written more than 150 chapters and articles that have appeared in such journals as the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Teacher Education, Teachers College Record, Rethinking Schools, The Nation, Kappan, and the Cambridge Journal of Education. He has authored or edited sixteen books.
. . . . His research and work has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the Annenberg Foundation, Readers Digest, and the Chicago Public Schools.
. . . .Bill Ayers served as Assistant Deputy Mayor for Education in Chicago in 1990, and he was named “Citizen of the Year” in 1994, with the award presented by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
. . . . Bill Ayers has been named the Randolph Distinguished Visiting Professor at Vassar College, Distinguished Scholar at the McKissick Museum of Education at the University of South Carolina, Visiting Scholar at Lesley College, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Nazareth College in Rochester, and has presented invited lectures or colloquia at such places as the American Educational Research Association, American Association of Curriculum and Teaching, Harvard University, Coalition of Essential Schools, University of Washington, the Detroit Institute of Art, University of Ottawa, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University Libraries Colloquia at Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Hawaii, Institute for Democracy and Education, Rethinking Schools, University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Los Angeles Public Library, Oregon State Bar, Purdue University, American Psychological Association, AATCE, State Prison of New York, The Gates Foundation, Indiana University, Columbia University, Bank Street College, Georgia Southern University, Colgate University, National Academy of Education, I Have a Dream Foundation, University of North Carolina, Children’s Law Center of Minnesota, Rice University, New York University, Yale University, and many other colleges, universities, public events, private and public schools.
- Dr. Ayers orchestrated the Chicago Annenberg Challenge as grant writer and co-founder, a project that brought nearly $150 million to Chicago Public Schools. Walter Annenberg -- the principle first donor to the Annenberg Challenge -- was former ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Richard Nixon.
- It was on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge that Dr. Ayers met Barack Obama. Other members of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge included the President of the University of Illinois, the former president and vice chairman of Continental Illinois Bank, the President and CEO of the Field Museum, and the CEO and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.
- Bill Ayers and Barack Obama have never had a social relationship. Their point of contact has been the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and occasional run-ins on the street in their neighborhood. Ayers, along with dozens of others, once had a coffee-fundraiser in the neighborhood for Barack Obama when he first ran for the state legislature. Ayer's donation to the cause was $200. He is not now, nor has he ever been, an advisor in any capacity to Barack Obama.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
In his excellent book, Running With the Foxes, wildlife biologist David MacDonald writes that "foxhunting is of minor significance to foxes in particular, or amongst wildlife issues generally," and that almost any other environmental issue or impact is more important to fox welfare than foxhunting.
MacDonald also notes that there is nothing morally repugnant about fox hunting. He notes that "people's gastronomic enjoyment outweighs their concern for the consequences of harvesting billions of fish annually, as their enjoyment of their cat's companionship outweighs regret at the deaths of millions of hedgerow birds annually."
In their campaigns and protests, Animal Rights folks seem to overlook the domestic cat as a wildlife killing machine that does far more mayhem in the countryside than anyone hunting with dogs.
The article below come from the LaCrosse Tribune of August 15, 2004:
One of Wisconsin's main predators can be regularly observed curled up on the front porch or strolling through the barn. Studies have indicated free-roaming cats — from wandering household pets to skittish, semi-wild farm felines — are responsible for killing millions of birds and small mammals in the state each year.
"That's what cats do. They're a very efficient predator and you can't breed that out of them or make them stop doing it," said Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources office in Viroqua, Wis.
In parts of south central Wisconsin, "cats are unquestionably the most abundant mammalian predator, outnumbering fox, skunks and raccoons combined," said Stanley Temple, a professor of wildlife ecology and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1996, Temple published results of a study on the effects of cat predation. Over five years, he and his team monitored free-ranging cats with the same methods as in other wildlife studies — tracking by radio collars, analysis of cat feces and stomach contents to determine what they ate — and came up with some disturbing figures.
Small mammals, such as young rabbits and rodents, accounted for about 70 percent of the cats' diet, Temple said. But the study concluded that, even at only 20 percent of their kills and the most conservative estimates for cat numbers and predation, at least 7.8 million birds were falling prey to felines in Wisconsin each year.
It's not feral cats, either, those that have reverted to living completely wild. In the five-year study, Temple said they never found a true feral cat — all maintained at least some regular contact with human-provided shelter and food — perhaps because of the state's harsh winters.
No, the majority of the felines stalking through the countryside are someone's barn cat or house pet, Temple said. Often they are fed and have some immunizations against disease, which gives them a competitive advantage over other predators.
Coyotes were thought to be a possible predator of cats, but Temple said his research didn't show significant losses to coyotes. Disease and vehicles were the main population controls on free-range cats.
The cats were not above going after other predators, either. Young snakes were a part of the diet, Temple said. And Matheys said he's had at least two reports, one this year, from cat owners whose pet brought home a dead weasel.
"Weasels are great predators," Matheys noted. "To have a cat kill them says something about the ability of cats."
Not surprisingly, grassland and ground-nesting birds were particularly hard-hit, Temple said. Cats were found to consume a number of young pheasant, even turkey chicks.
"We had all of Wisconsin's game birds show up in the diet," Temple said.
Which is why hunters and landowners sometimes will take matters into their own hands and shoot trespassing cats. But DNR officials warned it's illegal even for property owners to kill cats.
So what can be done? First and foremost, Temple said, is to convince people to keep their cats indoors. Measures such as declawing or placing a bell or other noisemaking collar had only limited success.
A life indoors not only keeps the cats away from wildlife, but also protects them from accidents, attacks by other animals and disease. Free-ranging cats often "lead short, miserable lives," Temple said.
Farmers should be encouraged to at least spay and neuter barnyard cats, so they are less likely to roam and won't continue to boost the roaming feline population. From his study, Temple recommended farms keep spayed females, as they had the smallest range and would be the most likely to hunt among the barns rather than the countryside.
But getting people to change their attitudes about cats is a major hurdle, DNR officials said. "So often people think, ‘I have a cat, it has to roam,'" said Thompson.
"It's kind of an accepted norm, that the cat goes out and does its thing. Dogs, too, to some extent in rural areas," Matheys said. "It's a slow process, to change human behavior and get people to restrain their dogs and cats."