Friday, February 29, 2008

Barack Obama -- Can He Manage Government?

Welcome to the revolution. This is the future. This is why "We are the ones we have been waiting for."

And yes, it really is about that phrase and those computers, as I have noted in the past. See "Why the End of Groundhog Day is the Beginning of Hope" to get the rest of that story. Somewhere out there in the ether, the Marquis de Condorcet is smiling. And so too is June Jordan.

John McCain and Me: Natural Born Somethings

It turns out that John McCain and I have more in common that I thought.

And yes, it's more than just a rapidly receeding hairline, extremely pale skin, and a complexion that suggests bad taxidermy.

It seems John McCain was born outside the U.S. (in Panama), which got some folks to wondering if he was even eligible to become President.

His answer: Yes, because the Constitution says only a "natural-born citizen" may serve as president, not that the person must be born in the U.S.A.

McCain says the issue was put to rest in 1964 when fellow Arizonan Barry Goldwater ran for president. Goldwater was born in Arizona when it was a territory, not a state.

Well, John McCain is right.

Children born in other countries who are Americans at birth, and who are not naturalized, are also "natural-born citizens."

That would include George Washington (born in the U.K. of America). And me. I was born to U.S. diplomats in Harare, Zimbabwe (then called Salisbury, Rhodesia) back in the era before jets. And I was a caesarian section no less. And yes, my mother is tough; she can kick your mom's ass, guaranteed.

So the good news is that I too can become President. Why do you shudder at that thought? What's with the Xanax? Woah! Five is a lot! Slow down. I have no intention. I promise.

By the way, it turns out that the lawyer giving John McCain the good legal advice on this matter was none other than Ted Olson.

In the small-world department, Olson was the lawyer for the defense in the Allison Engine case I watched before the Supreme Court on Tuesday (see yesterday's post), and his wife was one of the passengers on Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Ted Olson also represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Supreme Court case that gave Bush the presidency, and he is partners with Eugene Scalia, son of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Terrierman at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was an exciting place Wednesay morning as the Exxon Valdez finally hit its last beach ... or bench, your choice.

At its core, the case is about a drunken sailor (Joseph Hazelwood) and the liablity Exxon has for a massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez oil tanker.

Ironically, Exxon later demoted another captain with an alcohol problem (a fellow by the name of Ellenwood, believe it or not) after he went to treatment. They were sued in that case too, but this time for discrimation under a state law. That case has already made its way to the Supreme Court.

The real liability issue for Exxon, of course, is one of their own making: They keep putting the company name on oil tankers that can reasonably be expected to make the news whenever they run aground, leak, or blow up. At what point do you come to realize that this might be bad marketing?

Believe it or not, the geniuses at Chevron once named a tanker the "Chevron Condoleezza Rice" (no, I am not making this up), before they were persuaded that maybe that was a bad idea. The boat has since been renamed the "Altair Voyager."

As luck would have it, I attended my first Supreme Court case on Tuesday (Allison Engine Company v. United States). The Supreme Court chamber itself only holds about 90 people, and this case was a bit more interesting to me than most of these kind of things are, as I knew the players and the facts of the case pretty well (it deals with alleged contract fraud and defective work on the Arleigh-Burke class destroyers).

It seems to me that being a Supreme Court justice is a pretty good gig. The court does not start until 9:30, so there's plenty of time for coffee and a danish, the arguments last less than two hours, and you are out for a catered lunch at noon. On top of this, you can wear anything, as the black robe covers it all, and since no one can see your feet, you can even wear bunny slippers to work if you want to. You don't even have to write your own opinions; the law clerks do that. Justice Rehnquist used to show up high as a kite on drugs, and no one seemed to mind.

That said, I think some of these justices might be carrying this "no-show job" a little far. It turns out Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a single question in almost two years! Wow.

The Supreme Court itself was built in 1935, and I was paying particular attention to security and construction as I entered the court Tueday morning, as I wondered how a red fox could make its way into the building.

Because it did once. About five years ago.

Not knowing what to do about this wildlife invasion, someone over at the court called a Virginia hunt to come over with hounds and a border terrier to find the fox and drive it out.

When the story hit The Washington Post and The New York Times, a lot of folks figured it was me they had called (a working border terrier is not common anywhere and certainly not in the U.S.), but it was not.

Of course if they had called me, they might have actually found the fox!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

George W. Bush: Shiny New Happy Hunter


A fun old Saturday Night Live parody of George W. Bush as a hunter. Poor Dad!

For a related picture, check out the shiny new hunting outfit that George W. Bush is wearing in this 1994 picture (below) where he is "filling out paperwork" for a photo-op dove shoot near Houston.

Hmmm. Is "filling out paperwork" a euphemism for getting a license, or is it a euphemism for paying the $130 fine for illegally shooting a killdeer that same day? The New York Times article about the hunt notes that Bush was using a borrowed 20-gauge, but that he claimed he hunted "all the time." In those clothes? With a borrowed gun?



Cheney Takes Full Responsibilty

This might be a little closer to true than the "uncut" version. And yes, this mashup had "a little work done to it." But not too much. Which is why it's so good.

Reality really is about as funny as comedy. Sometimes it's actually funnier.

Hunting and Fishing at the Polls in November

What Will Barack Obama or John McCain mean for hunters and wildlife?

Good question, but let me start with another question: What did the Bush administration mean for hunters and wildlife?

How about the Clinton Administration?

How about the Reagan, Ford or Carter Administrations?

You see? Nothing.

As odd as it may seem, hunting, wildlife and guns are not really Presidential issues.

They are local issues and state issues. Very occasionally, they are national legislative issues which may devolve into litigation issues. But the Executive Branch? That's not where hunting, wildlife and gun issues typically play out for 99 percent of all hunters and anglers.

When Ronald Reagan was President, breakfast was not served with a "State of America's Wildlife" report next to the orange juice and a BATF "Second Amendment Report" next to the eggs.

Which is not to say that such obvious truths have too much to do with the kind of nakedly partisan discourse we are likely to hear this year. The folks at the Sierra Club are not staying up nights thinking too deeply about the Second Amendment, and the folks at the National Rifle Association don't give a damn about public lands, clean water, clean air, or whether the population of whitetail deer or redhead ducks is rising or falling in your area.

Now, here's the good news: The country is in pretty great shape no matter what anyone says.

Whether you want a rifle or a shotgun, a crossbow or a derringer, a .50 caliber Desert Eagle or a Smith and Wesson kit gun, a black powder rifle, or a laser-sighted Remington that fires saboted ammunition, you are free to buy it and own it.

And whether you want to hunt deer or elk, rabbit or ducks, geese or coyote, you are free to do it, and there's plenty of game to be had as well. Nearly everything is at 100-year record levels of abundance.

Well, OK, some may say, "But you know, Obama is not a hunter." Right. And neither is John McCain. And isn't that a breath of fresh air! I, for one, am pretty damn tired of all this Elmer Fudd stuff coming from our politicians.

It all started with George W. Bush. I don't remember Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton trotting out into a field for a shotgun photo-op.

The funny thing here is that George W. Bush is not a real hunter. He's just a beltway frat boy who borrowed a shotgun in order to strike a redneck rural pose.

Karl Rove figured most National Rifle Association members would not care, and that many would not know the difference, never mind all those pictures that showed George W. Bush to be a walking gun safety violation.

I am happy to say Al Gore took a pass on this nonsense, but John Kerry did not, and so we have him shooting a few geese to show his bonafides. Mitt Romney figured he could claim the mantle of a "lifelong hunter" because he shot a few rats with a pellet gun back when he was 15. Two weeks ago up in Wisconsin, Hillary Clinton claimed she once went duck hunting with her father "100 years ago."

I think it safe to say you won't find Barack Obama or John McCain standing in a field clutching a borrowed shotgun. Obama is not a hunter, and he has never claimed to be one. Neither is John McCain. Neither one of these guys is going to pretend to be something they are not.

Some would count that as a liability; I count that as integrity.

OK, but what about guns? What about them?

Both Obama and McCain believe in the Second Amendment, and both John McCain and Barack Obama believe the Second Amendment is an individual right.

Neither one thinks guns are just about hunting. But neither John McCain nor Barack Obama are oblivious to the kind of world we live in, and so both quite reasonably believe that insane people should not have guns, and criminals should not have guns.

Both politicians think terrorists should not be allowed to walk through airports with loaded bazookas on their shoulders.

Do these common-sense positions endear either candidate to the National Rifle Association? No, they do not.

But so what? The National Rifle Association is a direct mail fear factory of the same stripe (albeit catering to a different demographic) as the Humane Society and PETA.

Most gun owners see them for what they are; a useful wrench to grab and twist the gun-grabbing nuts on the far left, but not the kind of organization they actually care to support with membership dues.

More than 85 percent of hunters are not NRA members, and the percentage of personal-protection gun owners that are NRA members is even lower.

Besides, name one time in your entire life when a President's position on gun legislation, one way or another, mattered a damn. Guns are not a presidential issue; they are a state issue and a legislative issue and a litigation issue, but the influence of the Chief Executive is pretty minimal.

If Sarah Brady were made President of the United States, we would have the same gun laws eight years from now as we do today.

What do John McCain and Barack Obama think about conservation
and environmental issues?

John McCain likes to beat the Teddy Roosevelt drum, but in truth his interest in environmental issues is generally weaker than Barack Obama's, and this is reflected in the rather anemic amount of environmental material on his campaign's web site. Obama's web site has over 20-pages of single spaced position papers on energy and the environment. McCain's has zero.

Having said that, John McCain and Barack Obama agree on quite a lot.

For example, both think the U.S. should have signed the Kyoto Treaty, and both support capping greenhouse gases to fight global warming, which they both think is real and man-made.

Both oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Both support expansion of nuclear power as a way to generate more electricity with little greenhouse gas pollution, and both support expansion of liquefied coal and ethanol energy technology.

Of course, there are some differences. While McCain supports greenhouse gas reductions, his proposal is far weaker than Barack Obama's, calling for only a 30 percent reduction by 2050 (from a 1990 baseline), rather than the 80 percent reduction called for in the Obama plan.

McCain is also weaker when it comes to energy conservation. For example, McCain opposes mandating improved vehicle fuel economy standards by 2020, while Obama supports such measures.

Now stop there for a minute.

Think about that in the context of the current world in which we live.

How can anyone oppose mandating fuel economy standards on car manufacturers (who are capable of making a good 90-mile-per-gallon car right now with existing technology) while being FOR waging a 100-year war in Iraq that will inexorably result in more kids dying, more terrorists coming to our shores, and many more trillions of our tax dollars going down a rat hole in the sand?

There is no good answer there.

McCain is similarly out of touch, and politically shifty, when it comes to wildlife issues. For example he has run television ads mocking a $3 million appropriation to study the DNA of bears in Montana, suggesting Uncle Sam is running some kind of weird Yogi Bear paternity test. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey is engaged in classic rub-pad hair-sample research of the kind usually used to determine grizzly bear population densities.

And though McCain mocked the research in a political ad, he actually voted to fund it. I will let others figure out what that means; loveable lying maverick, insane megalomaniac, or teachable ignorant -- your choice.

McCain shows more shaky logic when it comes to National Forest issues. For example, he would repeal the Clinton Administration's executive order banning new road construction in more than 58 million acres of National Forest. McCain's argument is that such things should not be done by executive order, which sounds good until you realize he is simply ignoring the more than 3 million public comments received during the rule-making period, 99 percent of which were were in favor of forest protection. How much more public input does he want? Who other than the public would he have decide the future of America's public forests?

It turns out that John McCain is also a little shaky as to what a National Forest really is; he thinks timber harvest issues should be decided by local residents. Never mind that forest service personnel, road maintenance, campgrounds, hiking trails, and docks are paid for by ALL of America's taxpayers. Never mind that the the U.S. Forest Service loses more than $400 million dollars a year selling National Forest timber off of public lands. He wants the locals to decide what happens, and never mind if America's taxpayers get sacked with financial, as well as environmental, loss while a few thick-thumbed dropouts get the world's biggest subsidy to run a skidder or feller-buncher ripping down our national heritage.

OK, what about Barack Obama? How does he do on these same issues?

Unlike John McCain, Obama supports the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which would keep 58 million acres of National Forest lands in pristine condition.

Obama also supports strengthening the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Security Program which would create additional incentives for private landowners to protect and restore wetlands, grasslands, forests, and other wildlife habitat.

Much of this land is now open to hunting.

The rest of Obama's environmental positions can be read on the rather impressive Energy & Environment section of his campaign web site which features a 9-page single-spaced backgrounder on the environment (sections include: climate change, clean water, clean air, healthier communities, encouraging organic and sustainable agriculture, support for local family farmers, partnerships with landowners to conserve private lands, and protecting national parks and forests).

Be sure to also check out his 11-page single-spaced backgrounder on energy (sections include: cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions, investing in clean energy technology, investing in biofuels research, investing in developing clean coal technology, safe and secure nuclear energy, renewable energy goals, making the federal government an energy conservation leader, creating incentives to improve building energy efficiency, investments in developing advanced vehicle technology, and increased investment and incentives for public transportation).

OK, fine. But isn't all this just Washington gobbley-gook? I mean, what evidence is there that Obama or McCain really care about the environment at all?

Good question.

To tell the truth, there is not much evidence to suggest John McCain cares about public lands, energy issues, or wildlife.

This is not to blame him; born on an airbase to a military family, he was often uprooted as a child, and raised in the concrete-and-lawn world of naval bases enclosed by guarded perimeter wire fences.

Barack Obama's childhood was quite a bit different. Though he was raised by his apartment-living grandparents in Hawaii, he spent a few early formative years in Indonesia where he learned that the chickens in the backyard were destined for the family meal pot, where he had a monkey and a pond full of small alligators as pets, and where wild and domestic animals of every type were sold as food and were sampled by a curious youth from America.

Later, fresh out of college, Barack worked as an organizer at a public housing development in Chicago that had a sewage treatment center on one side, the City landfill on the other, and a toxic-poisoned river running across the back. The development itself was shot through with asbestos contamination -- a situation he helped correct, and which left him a firm believer in the value of clean water, clean air, and recreational space for youth -- and not just because one of his own young daughters has asthma herself.

Obama sees environmental issues as a thread which can tie us together as a people. As he noted in a recent speech:

"Environmentalism is not an upper-income issue, it's not a white issue, it's not a black issue, it's not a South or a North or an East or a West issue. It's an issue that all of us have a stake in. And if I can do anything to make sure that not just my daughter but every child in America has green pastures to run in and clean air to breathe and clean water to swim in, then that is something I'm going to work my hardest to make happen."

John McCain's relationship with wild places and wild life is a little less clear. We know he loves Sedona, and the rugged beauty of that countryside, but not much else. Is it the wildlife habitat he loves, or is it scenery? And yes, there is a difference.

As previously noted, the environmental section of John McCain's web site is as austere and empty as the desert, and there is no energy section at all.

In this silence, it is hard to think John McCain is not telling us quite a lot.

But, of course, as I noted at the beginning, it's easy to overstate the role of the President when it comes to hunting and fishing issues. The President can suggest legislation, can veto legislation, and can water or prune things to make them bloom or wilt, but Congress has to pass a bill for a President to actually sign it.

And, of course, a lot of hunting and wildlife issues (as I have said before) are not federal issues at all; they are state or local issues.

The bottom line is that no matter who wins in November, your hunting access is less likely to be determined by Washington politicians than it is by remembering to shut all the farm gates, keeping your truck out of wet fields, and thanking the farmer at Christmas with a bottle of his favorite beverage.

Which is not to say the President has no impact on conservation and environmental issues. In fact, quite a lot is done through administrative action by cabinet-level appointees and lesser associates.

The problem here is that until an Administration is in power, we cannot guess who will fill any particular cabinet-level slot.

That said, while past is not prologue, that's generally the way to bet at the track. In that sense, what we've gotten from each political party in the past is probably a little bit like what we will get from each political party in the future.

So what can we learn by looking at the environmental appointees of George W. Bush (the last 7 years) and Bill Clinton (the previous 8 years)?

In both cases, there is a tendency to fill posts with former politicians, corporate lobbyists, professional administrators, academic experts, and public interest group representatives.

For example, Christine Todd Whitman, a former Governor of New Jersey, was put in as the head of EPA under Bush II, while Carol Browner, the former head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, was put in as head of the EPA under Clinton. Neither EPA administrator did much to distinguish themselves in my opinion.

A more interesting comparison can be seen by looking at the Secretaries of the Interior and the Under Secretaries of Interior for Natural Resources and Agriculture. If you have an interest in what goes on in our National Forests, our National Parks, and on BLM land, these are the two jobs where things happen, for better or for worse.

At the U.S. Department of Interior, Bruce Babbitt (a former Governor of Arizona and former head of the League of Conservation Voters) was put in as head of the Department of Interior under Clinton, and Jim Lyons, a Yale-educated professional forester and wildlife policy expert was put in as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Agriculture in charge of National Forest issues.

During the Clinton-era, these two gentleman, along with U.S. Forest Service Chief Michael Dombeck (a former fishing guide and fisheries biologist who was actually raised in a National Forest) pushed through the Roadless Area Conservation Rule to protect 58 million acres of pristine National Forest land.

With encouragement from Babbitt and Lyons, the Clinton Administration also created the Giant Sequoia National Monument in California's Sierra Nevadas (a 328,000-acre monument protecting 34 groves of ancient sequoias and the surrounding forest), the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (1.9 million acres of astounding scenic desert in Utah), the Sonoran Desert National Monument (496,000 acres), the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument to protect 149 miles along the Upper Missouri River in central Montana, and the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (53,000 acres of forest) in southwestern Oregon.

With the end of the Clinton Administration, there was a changing of the guard at the Department of Interior. Gale Norton, a former Attorney General of Colorado, and a lobbyist for a lead company and other mining interests, was tapped as head of the Department of Interior, and Mark Rey, a paper and timber lobbyist, was made Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Agriculture in charge of National Forest issues.

From day one, the Bush Administation sought to reverse the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, but they have been unsuccesful so far thanks to protracted litigation which is likely to outlast the Bush Administration itself.

Gale Norton's contribution to the debate was a Washington Post editorial in which she claimed that the forests needed to be "thinned" for the forest birds -- an editorial which was roundly laughed at by the National Audubon Society which sent her a letter noting that the birds cited were not forest birds at all, and perhaps she might consult an Audubon Field Guide next time?

In the end, Norton got herself wing-shot out of the sky in a swirl of corruption charges when the "Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy," an industry front group she created prior to her tenure in the Bush Administration, was found to be receiving large donations from now-jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian gambling interests (note that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is part of the U.S. Department of Interior).

Though Norton herself managed to avoid jail, J. Steven Griles, the number two person within the U.S. Department of Interior, and himself a former mining industry lobbyist, went to jail on public corruption charges as part of the Abramoff scandal.

As for Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Agriculture Mark Rey, the latest news is that he is waiting to see if he goes to jail for deliberately skirting the law so that the Forest Service could use a flame retardant known to be toxic to wildlife. The result of Rey's actions and inactions was a massive fish kill in Oregon that left a creek totally lifeless, and 20,000 fish dead.

So where does that leave us, the hunter-voter?

The same place we were before -- alone with our conscience and our vote.

Which is OK.

This is a great country and a free country, and the more we all know about the issues, the options, and the trade-offs, I think the better off we will all be.

As always, vote as you see fit.

I think if you are reading and asking questions about these kinds of issues, you are on the right road. And in my experience the right road rarely leads to the wrong place.

Carry on.

Bruce Springsteen does Woody Guthrie: "This land was made for you and me"

Monday, February 25, 2008

Obama: Where's the Beef?

Steven Pearlstein, a business page columnist for The Washington Post has written a rock-solid piece on Barack Obama entitled: "Here's the Beef".

"During the course of our endless presidential campaigns, lots of silly things are said by the candidates and the press. But few are more ridiculous than the idea that Barack Obama is just an empty suit.

"We're talking here about a former president of the Harvard Law Review. Have you ever met the people who get into Harvard Law School? You might not choose them as friends or lovers or godparents to your children, but -- trust me on this -- there aren't many lightweights there. And Obama was chosen by all the other overachievers as top dog. Compared with the current leader of the free world, this guy is Albert Einstein."

4Read the whole thing. Then go to the link and read the position papers. Knock yourself out, and then pass it on.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Geography of American Working Terriers

This is a repost. Originally from August 2004.

The map, above, is fairly illuminating, as it graphically represents where working judges sanctioned by the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America live.

The states in white are those that have any JRTCA working judges at all. The states that are muddy-grey colored have no JRTCA working judges. A pin (see a larger version of the map by clicking on it) represents the zip code of every JRTCA working judge in the U.S. in the current edition of True Grit magazine.

To get a "bronze medallion" for special merit in the field from the JRTCA, a dog has to work at least three types of quarry underground (fox, raccoon, groundhog, badger or an aggressive possum) operating as if it were out alone, and with the owner doing the digging, and a JRTCA judge has to be in attendance as witness the work. To get a certificate, a dog cannot work quarry in a barn, brush pile, artificial earth or man-made location (such as the crawlspace of an outbuilding).

Jack Russell Terriers are, far and away, the most commonly worked terrier in America. There are very few Fell Terriers in this country, and almost no working Border Terriers at all. Patterdale terriers in the U.S. are still relatively rare, and though some very good dogs are being bred by a handful of reputable breeders, too many over-large dogs are being produced -- many of them cross-bred in the not-too-distant past with small pit bulls in order to get a larger dog that can work game above-ground game -- barn raccoons and feral hogs in particular. There are some excellent Patterdales and a few good Fells in the US, but most of these seem to be owned by people that have had Jack Russell terriers at one time or another -- the dogs they started with before there were any Patterdales or Fells in the U.S.

In short, most working terriers in the U.S. are Jack Russell Terriers, and the map above tells a story.

Why does this JRTCA map look this way?

Some of it has to do with a population bias -- there are more people per square mile in the East and Midwest, and as a consequence associations are easier to maintain.

Another factor is that there are only about 50 pins on the map at all. This paucity of pins is partly a reflection of how few people actually work terriers in the U.S. beyond two-or-three time a year digs, and in part a reflection of the fact that being a working judge is truly a thankless task.

Of course there are more than 50 serious diggers in the U.S. Some of these diggers are ex-JRTCA working judges, some are people that dig a lot but have no desire to sign up for the thankless job of being a working judge, a very few diggers have Kennel Club registered dogs, some folks dig their dogs but have no club affiliation at all. And of course there are the patterdale-only owners, some of whom have joined the new UKC working terrier program or are members of the Patterdale Terrier Club of America.

That said, while this map is clearly not inclusive of everyone that digs their terriers, it is more-or-less geographically representative of the broad TREND of those that that do -- they tend to be in the East and in the Midwest, rather than in the Western United States. For example, of the 15 UKC working judges, as of August 2004, six are not in America, two are in California and come East to hunt, and the rest are in New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia or Georgia -- states well-represented on the map above.

One of the reasons the map is skewed has to do with quarry availability. In the U.S., the bread-and-butter quarry of the working terrier is the groundhog. Raccoons cannot dig their own dens, and neither can possums. If dirt dens are not available, they will seek other alternatives -- hay lofts, brush piles, hollow trees, farm outbuildings, hay stacks, rock crevices, or old squirrel nests. With the exception of rock dens, these are not locations where a small dog follows quarry to ground and is then dug to. In short, it is not earthwork.

Red fox will dig dens on their own, of course, but in the American west they face real on-the-ground competition in the form of the coyote. A coyote will generally kill a red fox if given half a chance, and they directly compete with red fox for food.

In addition, the red fox is not native to most of the U.S., and its dispersal in the West is uneven as a consequence. While red fox are common in some areas (such as the prairie pothole region) they are quite rare in other areas (such as western Oklahoma).

Weather and time are another important reason fewer people hunt in the West. Fox will not den in warm weather unless they have kits, and in the U.S. we will not put a dog on a vixen with young. Without hounds to drive fox to ground, our fox-digging season is very short -- generally only 10 weeks long, and for most people with jobs this presents a very short period of time to get out into the field.

When people do get out into the field, of course, they have to find your fox! This is easier said than done, and is very hard job for a novice hunter with a novice dog. Red fox densities are variable, but settlement is generally much thinner in the West where there is less food than in the East, and where the fox faces direct competition with coyotes for food and den sites.

Raccoons are not native to the West, though they have spread with humans during the last 50 years, helped immeasurably by the creation of denning shelters in the form of barns, out buildings, road culverts, abandoned cars, and brush piles. A raccoon can expand a ground den a little bit, but it is not really made for digging. A skunk can and will dig its own hole, which is suitable for possum, but too small for anything but the smallest of adolescent raccoons.

Due to the absence of natural forage, raccoons are rarely found above 5,000 feet in the Rocky Mountain, unless they are living in close proximity to humans, though they have been reported at elevations as high as 10,000 feet if a steady food source is available.

Marmots and prairie dogs are found in some locations in the West, but the prairie dog is far too small for a dog to work, while the various species of rock marmots tend to gravitate towards areas with large boulders and talus slopes -- areas very hard to dig. Marmots are also absent from larger parts of the West outside of the Rockie Mountains. That said, if found in the right location, marmots are excellent quarry for working terriers in the Mountain States.

Some states -- notably California -- have very diverse geography and wildlife but also have very restrictive game laws which make working terriers difficult.

The American badger is common in some parts of the West, but more often than not its population is numerically thin on the ground. Badger are also hard to locate, as they will move every few days or so as they eat out, or chase out, a local rodent population (rats, mice, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs). Once the food is gone, so too is the badger. Unlike in Europe, the presence of a badger hole in the U.S. does not mean you have actually found a badger. More likely you have found a blank hole or, in some areas, worse -- a skunk, porcupine or snake.

Porcupines, rattlesnakes and skunks are fairly common in many parts of the West, and all three animals are a very serious threat to a dog. A dog sprayed underground by a skunk can be overpowered and die from anemia if not gotten out of the ground in pretty short order. A porcupine's defense system are barbed quills which can leave a dog wrecked in short order (and the owner's wallet drained after a visit to the vet). A dog bitten by a rattlesnake rarely lives, as the venom from even a small rattler is more than enough to kill a terrier.

In the South there are tens of millions of nutria, but they do not seem to be worked very often. In part this is due to the fact that in many Southern locations where nutria are numerous alligators also tend to be present. Another factor is that neither the American Working Terrier Association nor the JRTCA will give a working certificate to nutria as the holes are too big and shallow to qualify as real earth work. In addition the nutria, like the possum, is an animal whose primary defensive mechanism is bluffing. While AWTA will not give a certificate to possum, and the JRTCA will provided it is an "aggressive" possum, both seem to think the nutria is less than fomidable quarry for a working terrier.

A final obstacle to terrier work in the West is experienced people to show newcomers where to start. While the basics of terrier work are not overly complex, there are things to learn about locating quarry, digging, dispatch, and healthcare. To work any terrier in a safe manner requires several hundred dollars worth of equipment, as well as permissions from land owners. And then, of course, you have to have the desire to hunt, be in relatively sound physical shape, and be willing to devote the time to get out in the field in all kinds of wearther. It turns out all of this is a rare combination.

All of the factors above combine to create a "tipping effect" in much of the West where the chance of finding quarry is lower than in the East, and the chance of getting a dog injured is higher. When combined with a paucity of other working terrier owners, a very short working season, and the abundance of other kind of hunting opportunities, it is not surprising to find fewer working terriers in the Western United States than in the East and Midwest

Many of the western diggers that do exist actually come East to work their dogs, going to the trouble of loading themselves and their dogs into airplanes, trucks and cars for a week or two of hunting where quarry can be found on the ground.

This clearly takes a great deal of work and commitment, making these folks among the most dedicated working terrier enthusiasts in the U.S. A special hats off to them!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Put Hillary Away For Good: Click Here

The next 11 days will be the most crucial of the campaign to date. If Obama can compete favorably in Texas and Ohio, he will probably get the Democratic nomination.

Obama getting the Democratic nomination is good for the nation no matter who wins in November.

If Obama wins in both states, it’s all over for Hillary.

In fact, if Obama wins in just one state, it's probably over for Hillary.

The good new is that Obama is on the move in both Texas and Ohio. But time is short, and he still has a way to go. The Texas and Ohio primaries are only 11 days away.

Because Texas and Ohio are so big, a lot is dependent on the advertising buy in those states.

Whenever voters have been educated about Obama, his numbers have only soared. That is why your donation is especially critical at this point in the election cycle -- so the Obama campaign can get out the word and put Hillary to bed once and for all.

If you have any intention of contributing more to support Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy, now is the time to do it. Please give as generously as you can by joining with me in making a donating to the Obama campaign.

Check out how far we have come already by simply going to this web site and dragging your cursor across any state to see the latest polling data and election results >> .

Like that link? Then say "thanks" by making a donation (any amount is fine) to the cause of getting the best candidates competing in November. Who knew truth to suffer in a free and open fight?

Mass Wolf Kills on the Agenda in Idaho

In 1900 there were only 800 bison left in all of the U.S. Today, however, captive bison are so numerous they are sold as supermarket food, and management of wild populations is required to keep herds stable and healthy.

Gray wolves have been listed as endangered since 1974, and a population of 66 animals were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and Central Idaho in 1995 and 1996. These animals have since reproduced to a population of 1,500, and as a consequence the Federal Goverment is now moving to delist wolves in three states -- Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

In Idaho, a plan is afoot to kill as many as 300 of the 700 wolves believed to be in the state.

The ironic thing (and the thing that reveals the politics behind the delisting initiative) is that Idaho, Wyoming and Montana do not have the largest wolf population in the U.S.; that would be Minnesota.

So what makes Idaho, Montana and Wyoming so special that these states get their very own wolf-killing pass?

The answer: powerful local interests which represent cattle ranchers and big game guides.

These folks want the wolves shot, theorizing that wolves represent a threat to their industries.

Of course the real threat to the cattle industry is something else, as the recent recall of 143 million pounds of meat mixed with "downer" cattle reveals.

As for the elk herd populations, they are still larger than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want on the land. Elk over-population remains Topic One when discussing herd management issues in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

Taking the wolf off the Endangered Species list does not necessarily mean that it is open season on wolves or that they can be legally hunted. What it does mean is that wolf abatement will be easier for ranchers, and that drunken rednecks who shoot wolves from their trucks will not longer face Federal charges. All three states will now have to develop, and submit, wolf management plans before any wolf killing-culling-hunting initiatives are begun.

Will the wolves manage to thrive anyway? That's the assessment of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which notes that wolves are both smart and fecund.

The other bit of good news is that wolves exist in states other than Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Along with a larger wolf population in Minnesota, there is a small population in Michigan, a small but growing population in Wisconsin, a small population of red wolves in North Carolina, and a few wolves in Oregon, etc.

Across the U.S. there might be 4,000 wolves in the wild, out of a national population that was once estimated to top 200,000 animals.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guide to Breeding Old-Fashioned Working Dogs

I don't breed dogs and am not particularly enammored with those that do, as most have no idea of what they are doing, do not work their dogs at all, and essentially treat the whole thing as a lark -- or a way to move up in the "pecking order" of the show-ring community.

Breeding dogs is not a sport, and if you are not working your dogs a lot, please do not tell me you are breeding working dogs or have the slightest idea of what is needed in a working dog. In fact, when it comes to working terriers, you are probably the problem! You are the reason the dogs are getting too big, do not have good noses, and are (increasingly) mute.

Please, do NOT confuse go-to-ground with real work.
The fact that a dog can get down an enormous go-to-ground tunnel and bark at a caged rat for 90-seconds does not mean you have a dog worth breeding! I am happy that you are at least doing something with the dog, but this is the most minimum of beginnings.

If you were looking to breed a running horse, surely you would ask more if it than an ability to trot??

The idea that most show-ring terriers are a load on the gene pool of their breed is so alien to the average breeder that they do not understand the words, much less the phrase.

If a dog looks fine it is fine -- never mind that it does not use its nose, has no voice, will not work a rat, and has an 18" chest!

Never mind that the breeder is a man or woman with so little muscle tone he/she could not plant a dozen tulip bulbs, much less extract a dog from a stop-end four feet down!

In the world of terriers, the end result of such selection and breeding are the over-large, brain-befogged dogs we see in the show ring today. Their owners do not take them ratting or rabbiting (much less anything else!), but they will tell you they are great at barking at squirrels outside the picture window!

I do not breed dogs because doing it wrong (and lying to yourself) is simply too easy, while doing it right demands a ferocious level of sustained committment.

That, it seems is the subtext of a little 46-page booklet entitled "The New Guide to Breeding Old Fashioned Working Dogs" by Guy Gregory Ormiston. I do not own this tract, but a friend sent me some quotes from the publication, and I have found them sufficiently interesting to append them below. The complete work can be ordered for $15 USD (includes worldwide postage paid) from Guy G. Ormiston, Rt.1, Box 181-G, Wynnewood, Oklahoma, USA 73098. Mr. Ormiston raises blue-tick hounds, but the principles of raising all working dogs are largely the same, and the booklet comes to me highly recommended.

  • "To become wealthy you would have to sell dogs in volume and that is contradictory to one of the secrets of breeding outstanding working dogs. SECRET: Constant sorting of brood stock is necessary to prevent regression to average performers. You cannot mass-produce sound brood stock."

  • "You must be a USER of your own brood stock…You could not cull out the lesser dogs unless you used them under fire, identifying their weakness."

  • "Mental traits are inherited exactly like physical traits!"

  • "Line breeding and inbreeding will have to be used to maintain any excellence you wish to keep in your strain (but) Never, never, make a cross based solely on compatible pedigrees." [The author goes on to recount his method of developing your own separate strains for the eventually needed outcross.]

  • "Breed only based on the abilities of the present couple before you. Working ability is an absolute necessity but secondary to soundness and courage. Care must be taken to never double up on a weakness, but always double up on strength."

  • "If the progeny prove inferior, the animal is removed from the breeding program."


  • "To produce a credible strain of working dogs… you must breed dogs that will almost train themselves. They must be dogs that can rise above everything from limited exposure to work/training, to neglect, to abuse, and still make some fashion of a functional working dog. I would say only one potential user out of a hundred is a "real" dog trainer… a person who, first, will take the time to properly train a young dog and, secondly, knows how to go about it… a rare find indeed… Out of a litter of ten pups to a random sampling of users, only about two of those pups would have a fair chance of receiving a proper chance to perform their heritage."

  • "If you have something good in the way of a working dog strain, constant wariness is required to avoid losing it."

  • "Many a poor soul embarks on a breeding program, with no chance for success simply because this person cannot recognize a top working dog and, therefore, is unable to make intelligent breeding selections. One must study dogs, live with them in the working environment, succeed or fail based on their competence before one can recognize a top performer. Usually these sessions of learning must be lonely vigils."

Most folks will recognize this stuff as the kind of "sage advice" cobbled together from 19th Century texts. A lot of this sounds like "old text in a new binder."

But is it good advice?

Up to a point. Most of it is more than fine, but I would throw a caution about inbreeding and linebreeding.

Yes, that is done to create a breed, but it is not necessary to maintain a breed.

Why should it be the goal of someone who is genuinely seeking to breed working dogs to create his or her own "line"? It shouldn't! That, in fact, is the starting ground of the dog dealer, and yet the tract corretly states that dog dealing and breeding top working dogs are mutually exclusive. Ponder that a minute ....

Now for some more information. . . .

We now know that winning greyhounds, top sled dogs, working terriers and winning race horses are, in fact, not heavily inbred. Most have a Coefficient of Inbreeding of less than five percent.

Of course, if you are writing new material that is partially cobbled from ancient texts, you might miss that, as Sewall's Coefficient of Inbreeding was not invented until the 20th Century. A small warning there!

Why I am Proud to be an American

Something remarkable is happening in this country.

When we are old and stooped, our teeth in a water glass, our feet swollen from heart failure, our ears ringing with tinnitus, and only our memories to take us back to our beloved forests, streams and fields, we will still remember two things: the name of every dog we have ever loved, and this time in American history.

Why this time?

We will remember this time not because Hillary lost Wisconsin, but because American won a long sad struggle with the darkest corners of its soul.

Later it will seem strange. It may already seem strange to some of the very young.

But you and I know how it has always been, and I think we can see now how it will soon be.

It is almost morning in America ... the beginning of a brand new day in which we will see the world in a new light. There will be still be shadow, of course. But we are no longer in the gloamin where the big wink and a knowing nod means a man's fate is decided ... or a woman's ... by something that is immutable and of no consequence.

Later the historians will say it began to happen this Spring, but since we are in it right now, the ice breaking up around us, the fast cold waters ripping around our calves, the cracking pops still shattering across the front page of our morning newspaper, let me say that it happened in Wisconsin. On a Tuesday.

There the Associated Press asked, and answered a simple question:

Q: How bad was Wisconsin for Clinton?
A: Very. Of the types of voters who usually support her, only older people —especially whites over age 65 — remained solidly loyal. She and Obama essentially split the votes of many groups she has carried easily in previous primaries, including white women, whites with no more than high school diplomas, white Democrats and whites earning under $50,000 annually. In one remarkable turnaround, white men without college degrees supported Clinton in previous primaries by a combined 52 percent to 37 percent, but in Wisconsin they backed Obama 60 percent to 38 percent. The Illinois senator also improved his usual healthy margins with the youngest, most liberal and best educated voters.

Only whites older that 65. Right.

And generally only the least educated among them. Right.

We know what that is.

That is the old addiction to bile and fear. That is the old voice, crawling up the back of the skull, murmuring "no we can't."

This is the last contortion; the flailing throws of rictus of that dark thing that has poached so much potential from this land.

But it is gut-shot and dying now. The last flash of light is fading, and it can smell its own death. It will howl a few times yet. It will betray its presence yet. But it cannot escape. Even if we lose it in the forest ahead, it is a dead thing walking.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hillary Clinton's "Big Wink" to the Swift Boaters

An ad mocking
"slime tactic" 527 Committees. This one is from the tongue-in-cheek "Swift Boat Kids for Truth"

This morning I said be prepared for Hillary to start throwing mud and rocks.

Guess what? The ramp-up has already started. Say what you want, but I do know my vermin.

Word has it that the Clinton folks have tapped Pennsylvania attorney William A. K. Titelman (click here to call and email him) to organize a political committee organized under section 527 of the tax code.

These so-called 527 committees are free to get money from anywhere and say anything, as we all know from the "Swift Boating" of John Kerry.

The new pro-Hilllary Clinton 527 committee, says ABC News' Jake Tapper, is to be called the "American Leadership Project" and will be staffed by veterans of the Clinton White House.

Any questions as to why we don't want Hillary Clinton back in office?

Want to do something positive about this? 4 Join with me in donating to the Obama campaign.

The Secret Life of Badgers

The BBC put a camera down a Devon badger sette for two years to photograph the activities of a family of badgers. One of the most interesting bits is the reported badger population in the UK: 300,000. That means there are now more badger in the UK than red fox. Click here to see video of badgers grooming, fighting, rolling bedding, and with young. A shout out to Walter H. for sending me the link!

Note that the European badger is not closely related to the American badger which lives a different (largely solitary) life, and eats different foods (i.e. rats, mice and ground squirrels rather than worms, beetles, and bulbs).

Hillary's Numbing Numbers

Free Obama policy policy papers (download for free).

In Wisconsin last night, Obama did not just win by 17 points, he got twice as many votes as McCain, Huckabee, Ron Paul and Romney combined. In fact, he got a higher percentage of Democratic voters (58%) than McCain did Republican voters (55%) even though McCain has no credible opposition at this point.

It's not just that Obama won; he gained double digit ground with white men, white females, independents, union workers, folks with incomes over $50,000, folks with incomes under $50,000, while Hillary lost ground in double digits with every single group.

In Hawai'i, things simply got unhinged, with 20,000 people showing up to vote in a caucus that normally has about 5,000 people voting. The results: Obama got 76 percent of the vote.

The push now is to end it in Ohio and Texas. Obama is tied in Texas, and rising in Ohio, but money is needed to push on to victory.

One thing is certain: the Clinton folks will say anything and do anything to win at this point. They have trashed things so badly up to now that there is not much of a political legacy to salvage, so they figure they might as well go down flinging mud and rocks as it's all they've got left.

No worries; we can expect the same thing from John McCain no doubt. This is kind of politics America is rejecting, and Hillary and McCain simply remind us of why we reject it.

Heads up however: The press wants to sell newspapers and TV commercials, and they will invent a story if they have to. Look for contrived crisis and carefully edited video devoid of context. They will do this to Obama, and they will do this to McCain too. Do yourself the favor of researching the context of everything. and discount any "scandal" that breaks 36 hours or less before a vote in Ohio and Texas. I say this because I have danced (closely) with some of the folks on the Clinton team before, and I know how they operate.

This is how it is with political animals; they are most dangerous when they have nothing left to lose, and just before they die.

4 Join with me in donating to the Obama campaign


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The End of Groundhog Day is the Beginning of Hope

I got a short email the other day saying that a line from a Barack Obama speech -- "We are the ones we have been waiting for" -- is actually an "old Hopi Indian saying."

I call "bullshit" on almost all old Indian sayings. Most of these "poster perfect" quotes were first written by Hollywood film writers in the 1970s. Let's not drink too deeply from the well of mythological 19th Century native American prose poets, eh?

Maria Shriver launched the phrase into the Obama campaign a few weeks ago. Apparently she was the first person to suggest it was an "old Hopi Indian" saying. In fact, the actual origin of the phrase is not deeply hidden: It's the title of a book by Alice Walker who lifted it from her friend June Jordan, who first used it in a "Poem for South African Women."

It may be entirely coincidental that Barack Obama's first entry into organizing for political change was in the arena of divestment from South Africa.

At the time, Barack was a sophmore at Occidental College in California, and he was contacting members of the African National Congress to speak on campus, drafting letters to faculty, printing up flyers, and arguing strategy.

In his autobiography, written 13 years ago, he notes that "I noticed that people had begun to listen to my opinions. It was a discovery that made me hungry for words."

For a person hungry for words, writer June Jordan was not a bad person to turn to.

Like Barack, June Jordan sought to put her life in context, and while doing that, she was drawn to the commonalities between all of us, and the responsibility we all have to make the world a better place. She wrote:

"My life seems to be an increasing revelation of the intimate face of universal struggle. You begin with your family and the kids on the block, and next you open your eyes to what you call your people, and that leads you into land reform into Black English, into Angola, leads you back to your own bed where you lie by yourself, wondering if you deserve to be peaceful, or trusted or desired or left to the freedom of your own unfaltering heart. And the scale shrinks to the size of a skull: your own interior cage.

"And then if you’re lucky, and I have been lucky, everything comes back to you. And then you know why one of the freedom fighters in the sixties, a young Black woman interviewed shortly after she was beaten up for riding near the front of the interstate bus –– you know why she said, ‘We are all so very happy’? It’s because it’s on. All of us and me by myself: We’re on."

Alice Walker was friends with June Jordan, and she borrowed June's poetic line for the title of her own book of essays entitled "We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For."

In the introduction to that book, Alice Walker tries to compress the larger idea encapsulated in the phrase. She begins:

"It is the worst of times. It is the best of times. Try as I might I cannot find a more appropriate opening for this volume: it helps tremendously that these words have been spoken before and, thanks to Charles Dickens, written at the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities. Perhaps they have been spoken, written, thought, an endless number of times throughout human history.

"It is the worst of times because it feels as though the very Earth is being stolen from us, by us: the land and air poisoned, the water polluted, the animals disappeared, humans degraded and misguided. War is everywhere.

"It is the best of times because we have entered a period, if we can bring ourselves to pay attention, of great clarity as to cause and effect. A blessing when we consider how much suffering human beings have endured, in previous millennia, without a clue to its cause. Gods and Goddesses were no doubt created to fill this gap.

"Because we can now see into every crevice of the globe, and because we are free to explore previously unexplored crevices in our own hearts and minds, it is inevitable that everything we have needed to comprehend in order to survive, everything we have needed to understand in the most basic of ways, will be illuminated now. We have only to open our eyes, and awaken to our predicament. We see that we are, alas, a huge part of our problem. However: We live in a time of global enlightenment. This alone should make us shout for joy.

"[....] It was the poet June Jordan who wrote 'We are the ones we have been waiting for.'

"Sweet Honey in the Rock turned those words into a song. Hearing this song, I have witnessed thousands of people rise to their feet in joyful recognition and affirmation.

"We are the ones we’ve been waiting for because we are able to see what is happening with a much greater awareness than our parents or grandparents, our ancestors, could see.

"This does not mean we believe, having seen the greater truth of how all oppression is connected, how pervasive and unrelenting, that we can 'fix' things.

"But some of us are not content to have a gap in opportunity and income that drives a wedge between rich and poor, causing the rich to become ever more callous and complacent and the poor to become ever more wretched and humiliated. Not willing to ignore starving and brutalized children. Not willing to let women be stoned or mutilated without protest. Not willing to stand quietly by as farmers are destroyed by people who have never farmed, and plants are engineered to self-destruct. Not willing to disappear into our flower gardens, Mercedes Benzes or sylvan lawns.

"We have wanted all our lives to know that Earth, who has somehow obtained human beings as her custodians, was also capable of creating humans who could minister to her needs, and the needs of her creation. We are the ones."

When I first read those lines, standing up in the aisle of a book store while skimming fronts and backs of books to find something worth reading, a little light went on in the back of my head.

"Ah! Condorcet!" I thought. Alice Walker wass channeling the Marquis de Condorcet.

Condorcet was a French philosopher, mathematician, and sociologist, and a leading figure in the French Enlightenment.

In his last and most famous essay, entitled an "Essay on the Progress of the Human Spirit," written just before his death in 1775, Condorcet argued that science, reason, and education, together with the principles of political liberty and equality, would soon lead humanity into a new era of happiness.

Condorcet said he thought economic and social progress in developing countries would spring forward much faster than it had in Europe because these less advanced countries would have the European model of success to emulate and copy.

Condorcet argued that:

"The progress of these peoples [folks in undeveloped countries overseas] is likely to be more rapid and certain than our own because they can receive from us everything that we have had to find out for ourselves, and in order to understand those simple truths and infallible methods which we have acquired only after long error, all that they need to do is to follow the expositions and proofs that appear in our speeches and writings."

I short, Condorcet recognized that, thanks to the printing press, increased literacy, and the declining cost of books, knowledge was finally accumulating, and could now be passed across time and space.

Human were no longer doomed to live "Groundhog Day" over and over again.

Progress was not only possible, but it would become more rapid, Backwards regions of the world would leapfrog over 5,000 years of things that did not work.

Condorcet argued that someday:

"A very small amount of ground will be able to produce a great quantity of supplies of greater utility or higher quality; more goods will be obtained for a smaller outlay; the manufacture of articles will be achieved with less wastage in raw materials and will make better use of them.... So not only will the same amount of ground support more people, but everyone will have less work to do, will produce more, and satisfy his wants more fully."

Condorcet anticipated this abundance would lead to increased population growth, but he also believed that people would engage in voluntary family planning as incomes, education and knowledge rose.

Was Condorcet Right?

Basically, yes.

As Condorcet anticipated, shared knowledge across time and space has dramatically boosted both agricultural production and personal income, with "each successive generation" amassing "larger possessions ... as a result of this progress."

As Condorcet anticipated, the spread of democracy has increased across the globe, and modern societies across the world have embraced Social insurance "safety nets" to protect the poor and aged -- just as he predicted.

Condorcet argued that improving the status of women and making investments in female education were critical to economic and social development. This is now widely accepted all over the world, even among social conservatives.

Condorcet anticipated that increased food production, combined with a rise in international trade and an increase in personal wealth, would result in an increase in the number of people on earth. This too has occurred as he predicted.

Most remarkably, Condorcet argued that in time population growth would slow as people came to understand that the greater good was not in making more people, but in making more happy people.

The kind of voluntary slowing of population growth that Condorcet predicted has occurred in Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, and increasing numbers of developing countries (Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Iran, Brazil, etc.)

Indeed, across the globe today, nearly half of all the people on earth are now living in countries that have replacement level fertility rates or less.

OK, but what is new here?

Why are "WE" the people we have been waiting for?

The answer, as Alice Walker suggests, is that this current generation "has entered into a period of great clarity into cause and effect."

What has happened to information in the last 15 years is a quantum leap forward unimaginable even 20 years ago, and unprecedented in human evolution.

It is Condorcet on steroids and stilts.

You are part of that great leap right now. Not only is this little missive instantly posted and available to hundreds of millions of people around the world with a mere push of a key, but it is also available at no cost to them, and at no cost to me.

Along with the written word, this post provides links to source material, pictures, and even video.

If you want more information on some obscure point, you can get it by simply going to Google and posting a simple query.

What is particularly amazing is that this technology is not not captive to a few rich people in a few well-placed countries.

Easter Island now has three Internet cafes, and spam email from Nigeria and Ghana are commonplace.

The small town of Obama, Japan is following the current U.S. election cycle like it's a local event.

Inside our computers, the bits and pieces of our hard drives and mother boards come from Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Mexico and El Salvador. When I run into computer trouble, I call Dell Tech Support ... in India.

And it's not just the big players that have an international reach. This little blog (entirely free to create in a world where water costs $2 a bottle) is visited by several thousand people a day. In the last 9 months it has registered visitors from over 180 countries.

This is all pretty amazing stuff. The Internet, if nothing else, has become a great equalizer. You no longer have to be rich, live in an urban area, or have a high-powered job to be heard.

Today, even in rural America, if you have discipline and time, you can be as well-read as anyone on earth.

Perhaps more importantly, you can find people around the world who have similar interests to yours, no matter how obscure or off-beat they might be.

And, of course, all of use are now free to use the Internet to build social consciousness, and to organize other people into action.

This is what lies ahead. This is the change we have been waiting for.

I do not expect anyone will fall down and grab their brain at reading these observations. Most of what I have said here is old hat, and has been said before (and much better) by others.

What we may not realize, however, is that the change is already on and impacting even small areas we have a personal interest in.

Over at the Pet Connection blog, Gina Spadafori recently noted that the investigation into the Menu Foods dog food poisonings, the rise of the No-Kill Movement, and the backlash against the AKC's financial relationships with the puppy mill industry, have all been connected by a common thread -- the power of the internet.

Twelve years ago, these kinds of groundswells did not exist because the Internet, as we know it today, did not exist.

Something huge has happened since then, and the wave of change is still building.

The riptide of information, social consciousness and community creation that is occurring today is almost more than Condorcet could have predicted.

Only in the last few years, with the rise of independent web sites, online newspapers, blogs, Internet lists-servs, email, online books, and free telephone connections has it been possible to not only get informed about everything, but also to take action on all those things we think are most important.

Only in the last few years have "We, the people" had the power to educate ourselves, inform others, and organize movements without the benefit of massive direct mail budgets.

We are, of course, still very low on the learning curve. We are discovering the power of the technology, but we are also learning its limits as well.

The same technology that makes it easy for two million Americans to send an email message to the U.S. Forest Service, also makes it easy for the U.S. Forest Service to discount those messages and wipe them off their servers with the push of a key.

And so, we must have no illusion: We may be able to get informed and get organized using the Internet, but information and organization alone are not going to force change.

Change does not come from a mouse click alone.

America's collapsing infrastructure will not be rebuilt by email; it will take tax dollars and iron workers, poured concrete and municipal bonds. We will have to suit up for that.

Our inner city schools cannot be turned around so long as city planners think a new sports arena is an economic asset, and a new school is a tax burden. We will have to show up and demand new priorities.

If we want manufacturing jobs to return, we will have to stop giving tax incentives to companies relocating to slave-labor countries overseas. And yes, we will have to pay up if we want more things made in the U.S.A.

If we want more construction jobs to go to American workers, we will have to limit immigration so wages and working conditions in that sector rise high enough to attract American workers. We will have to speak up for that.

The point here is that there is no free lunch.

If we decide to go to war, then we need to recognize that there will be dead and wounded soldiers, and there will be a tax increase too.

It will not be enough to put a "Support Our Troops" sticker on the back of your SUV.

Change, in short, will not come with a mouse click, but with movement.

We will have to move off the couch in order to get to the voting booth.

We will have to move out of our comfort zone in order to attend rallies and demonstrations.

We will have to move off our ass in order to get out our check book.

We will have to stand up for change.

And yes, we will have to sacrifice. Great things always take great effort.

Will America be willing to sacrifice?

That remains to be seen. Things are always easier in the abstract.

The Bush Administration was eager to get the nation into a war, but they did not send their own children to the front lines, did they?

Everyone agrees that our bridges need repair, but no one is standing in line to foot the bill.

Yes, the nation needs immigration reform, but who wants to pay $150 for half a day's worth of maid service?

And yes, it's really horrible that the American Kennel Club's closed registry system has wrecked so many breeds, but folks still demand AKC papers.

And so we stand on the edge. Change is on the horizon, but it's not quite there yet, is it? In every room where six people are now saying "yes we can," there are least three others thinking "no we can't."

Yet there is hope. History is on our side. When called to action, America has shown up in the past. We will show up again. But we need to be asked.

Where is the call for a national program to develop a 200-mile-per-gallon vehicle?

Instead of that, we were told to buy a roll of duct tape and go shopping.

Where is the call to rebuild our inner city schools and staff them with competent teachers?

Instead of that, we got pictures of Barbara Bush reading to children.

It has been such a long time since we had a leader who called us to action, that most of us cannot remember the experience.

Has it occurred in your lifetime? Perhaps not.

And yet there is hope. America is not a fundamentally different place than it was 60 years ago. We are still Americans, and if called to action for a good cause, we will join up.

But who will call us?

Is there anyone out there who seriously thinks Hillary Clinton can do that?

Is there anyone out there who seriously thinks John McCain can do that?

These are politicians from another era.

They are the same old tired Washington politicians who continue to believe it's OK for nameless, faceless, people meeting in secret to decide our fate.

But we are now entering a new era, and it is not an era in which "super delegates" will hold sway.

We the people no longer need bankers, oligarchs and country club pundits to get out the message and organize us for change.

We are the ones we have been waiting for. And now it's on all of us.

Beyond the Pump

Beyond the price at the pump ... is the price of the stump.

A war based on lies, called for by chicken-hawk draft dodgers, fought on behalf of people who will not fight for themselves.

Now we are at war for a purpose undefined, an end game unknown, and with an exit strategy that does not exist.

Gasoline has shot up to $3.80 a gallon, and food is being diverted to fuel, shooting up commodity prices, resulting in rising unrest in the developing world.

The U.S. economy is beginning to auger into the ground as war debt saps the economy.

But over the White House they are planning a wedding.

And no doubt the band will play Waltzing Matilda ...


Monday, February 18, 2008

Teddy Roosevelt's Terriers

In the picture, above, Skip is seated on Archie Roosevelt's lap at Sagamore Hill. At Sagamore Hill, when he wasn't making mischief around the house, Archie and Skip would go sailing in the Bay in a small boat called the "Why." Skip was Archie's dog, like Jack's was Kermit's. Roosevelt understood the value of dogs for boys, and boys for dogs; they kept each other out of trouble.

The "Patron Saint" of American working terriers has to be Teddy Roosevelt who more-or-less created the American Rat Terrier and worked rats in the basement of the White House.

Teddy Roosevelt was also one of America's greatest conservationists -- the creator of many of our largest National Parks, as well as the National Wildlife Refuge system and the National Forest system. Without Teddy Roosevelt's love of sport hunting -- and his firebrand opposition to market hunting -- we would not have the tremendous store of wild game we have in the U.S. today.

Teddy Roosevelt had many dogs, but one of his favorites was a small feist that adopted him while he was on a hunting trip in the West.
The dog was originally owned by John Goff and he crawled into Roosevelt's lap and heart while Roosevelt was on a 1905 Colorado bear hunt with Goff.

The dog, named "Skip," was a mongrel terrier that was black and tan in color and appears to have been of no particular breeding. Roosevelt himself described the dog
in a letter to his children (4/20/1905) as "an absurd little terrier" about half the size of Jack (a large Manchester terrier). Teddy later said "by little I mean a little of this, and a little of that.”

Roosevelt was impressed by the dog's ability to confront a bear head on, and later he taught the dog to ride on the saddle of a horse unaccompanied by a human.

In a September 1905 article in Outdoor Life magazine, Goff described his pack "in the order of efficiency" as "foxhounds, bloodhounds, crosses between these two, bull-terriers, fox-terriers, fox-terrier crosses with other terriers, and canines that can only be called just ‘dog’.”

Most bear packs of Goff's day included small
fiests who could work their way into brush and annoy a bear into bolting. In fact, such dogs are still used today to hunt bear, squirrel, raccoon, and possum in the south, and most are viritually indistintiguishable from the dogs known today as rat terriers.

Skip died the year prior to the president leaving office. The president sadly watched his burial behind the White House.

Roosevelt’s wife knew how much the dog meant to him, so after finishing his second term, she had Skip’s body exhumed. The dog was transported to the family’s estate in Sagamore Hill, and laid to rest.

As Mrs. Roosevelt explained to puzzled members of the press: Teddy couldn’t bear to leave him there "beneath the eyes of presidents who might care nothing for the little mutt dog."

The dog pictured above is Jack, with young Kermit Roosevelt.
Jack was a standard Machester terrier.