Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood is No Abraham Lincoln

Poor old Clint Eastwood.  His ignorance was out there for all the world to see.

Presidents with NO business experience:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson
  • William Jefferson Clinton
  • Ulysses S. Grant
  • Ronald Reagan

  • Presidents with business experience:
    • George W. Bush
    • Herbert Hoover

    Presidents who were practicing lawyers:
    • Abraham Lincoln


    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    Basic Go To Ground

    If you want to know how to start a terrier in the field, what equipment you will need and should have, how to build go-to-ground tunnel, how to provide basic veterinary care for your dog, what to do when your dog is skunked, how to find American terrier quary, and the true history of working terriers, click here.

    Maybe I'm Crazy :: Gnarls Barkley

    That Rorschach guy was a great painter, but how come he only painted dead hookers?

    Sasquatch Killed in Montana

    A Sasquatch was killed in Montana, run over by a car.

    A man dressed in a military-style “Ghillie suit” who was attempting to provoke a Bigfoot sighting was struck by two vehicles and killed on U.S. 93 South of Kalispell Sunday night.

    “He was trying to make people think he was Sasquatch so people would call in a Sasquatch sighting,” Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Schneider said. “You can’t make it up. I haven’t seen or heard of anything like this before. Obviously, his suit made it difficult for people to see him.”

    The Beast of Exmoor and Other Nonsense

    A repost from February 2009

    Stories of feral "beasts" lurking in the darkness of the English countryside have been around for hundred of years, and were already old when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used such a tale as the basis of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

    The stories persist, of course.

    Here are a few contemporary descriptions of various U.K. beasties:
    • Beast of Muchty: "I was travelling to my work at 04:30 when a cat the size of a Lurcher, jet black, small head, very slim with a long tail ran in front of my car (about fifty yards). The whole incident was over in 2 seconds ... "
    • Beast of Bont: "The main evidence for the existence of these sharp-clawed, but mysterious stalkers has been the death toll among vulnerable herds of sheep."
    • Beast of Barford: "It is twice the size of a dog print and clearly shows three huge claws and a large pad at the back. Wildlife experts believe the print is the most conclusive evidence yet that big cats are roaming Warwickshire."
    • The Beast of Gloucester and The Black Beast of Inkeberrow: "A 'huge black beast' ran in front of Ray Lock's car on the other side of the river near Lydney... one evening near Monmouth where it was described as 'jet black and about the size of a large dog.'"
    • Beast of Burford: "A £5,000 reward has been offered for the capture of a 'big cat' which has been terrorising a farming community ..... Pc Ray Hamilton, wildlife crime officer at Thames Valley Police, admitted there had been several sightings - but said this was not unusual. 'We've had sightings of everything you could imagine - pink flamingos, lions, dingos, wolves and even a giant ant-eater in Pangbourne.'"

    The human desire to create imaginary "beasts" seems to have some correlation to the loss of large predators and true wilderness.

    With the extinction of the bear and the wolf, the U.K. has lost all large predators and now has to suffice with two rather unimpressive meso-predators, the fox (average weight 15 pounds and living almost entirely off of mice) and the badger (average weight around 25 to 30 pounds and living almost entirely off of worms, beetle grubs, and small bulbs).

    So what are these large feral "beasts" seen in the English countryside, and why is it that they are never actually found?

    The short answer is that these "beasts" are nothing more than large escaped lurchers (coursing dog crosses) that have taken to livestock-worrying. As an article on the Beast of Osset notes:

    "On a parkland estate in rural Yorkshire a poacher's lurcher (a fast greyhound-like hunting dog) was at large for six months but was sighted only once during that period. The gamekeepers knew it was there because they found the roe deer that it had killed, but it took a concerted effort with volunteers to flush it out of the wood."

    In fact, sheep worrying is a serious problem
    in the U.K., and while any dog can end up attacking sheep, it is the larger dogs such as Lurchers and Bandogs (mastiff crosses) that do the damage that lead some to think a large cat or lion is loose in the English countryside.

    Sheep worrying by lurcher.

    In fact, a lurcher really does look like a large cat if seen in the dark or fog, and especially if it is seen only briefly from a moving car, as most "big cat" sightings are.

    A Bandog (what the Hound of the Baskervilles was) really does look like a lion if seen under the same circumstances.

    What is amazing about the "big cat" stories in the U.K., however, is how easy they are disprove, and yet how utterly resistant people are to having their bubbles burst.

    Take the issue of "big cat footprints". Most of these footprints are clearly large dog prints. How can we be sure? Simple -- all the footprints show claw marks. All the large cats, except the cheetah, however, walk with retracted claws, otherwise they would quickly dull

    This foot print of the "Beast of Barford"
    is held up by a young hopeful.

    The other issue has to do with hounds -- the U.K. is crawling with fox packs, and yet none has ever chased and cornered a large cat other than the now very rare native Scottish Wildcat, which is not much larger than a tabby.

    You can be sure that if the big cats were out there, British fox hounds would have found them by now! In the U.S., small teams of less experienced hounds manage to track down marauding farm-country cougars in only a few hours time.

    Finally, we come to the issue of rub strips -- bits of carpet and tacks impregnated with a mixture of catnip and beaver castoreum -- that have failed to turn up any positive large cat hits in the U.K.

    Wherever these rub strips are used -- whether in North America, South American, Europe, Africa, or Asia -- they are quickly found and rubbed against by large cats and other predators.

    A DNA analysis of fur caught on the hooks of the carpet tacks can not only identify what species of animal has left it behind, it can identify what specific animal has come by in the night.

    Rub strips are so accurate they are now routinely used to survey population densities of such elusive large cats as leopard, lynx, cougar, and jaguar, as well as badger, wolverine, bear, wolf, coyote and bobcat.

    Of course, "Beast of" stories are not unique to the U.K.

    Here in the United States we have Sasquatch and some local tales of little green men, swamp creatures, and even a werewolf or two (all delivered with a wink to small children).

    In truth, however, we have far fewer fantasy "Beast" stories than the U.K. for a simple reason: we have more real top end predators.

    In states like Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and North Carolina we really do have wolves prowling the remote sections.

    In Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina we really do have 12 foot lizards slithering out of drainage ditches and quite capable of eating an old lady alive.

    Mountain lions really do prowl the remote sections of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado and even Texas, and are now being found as far east as Iowa.

    Black bears number well over 400,000 in the lower 48 states, and there are over 100,000 more in Alaska.

    Bobcats are everywhere, as are coyotes -- the later so common that there are bounties on them, including in my home state of Virginia.

    No one living in a large America city today lives more than two hours away from a major top-end predator of some kind.

    This is a glorious thing, and something we should count among our greatest national treasures.

    But a "Beast of Bondwynn?" No, we don't have that.

    In a world in which top-end predators are still common, there is no reason to invent ghost stories.


    Monday, August 27, 2012

    What Caliber Would Jesus Shoot?

    From The Book of Mitt, a new book in the GOP Translation of the Gospels:

    The Lazy Paralytic

    1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home. 2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof? Do you have any idea how much that cost to install? Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof? The reeds alone cost five talents. I had them carted in from Bethany.” 6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions. He continued, “This house is my life. And the roof is the best part.” The disciples fell silent. 7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?” 8. “No,” Jesus answered. “This is a gated community. How did you get in?” The man’s friends grew silent. 9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems? I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.” 10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends. “There is no one. His injuries are too severe. To whom else can we go?” 11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus. “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone? That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system. 12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why? Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.” The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus. “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic. “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.” 13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?” “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic. “I don’t know. Why don’t you sell your mat?” 14. All in the crowd then grew sad. “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof. Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed. 15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd.

    The Very Poorly Prepared Crowd

    1. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 2 But Jesus said to them, “Why not give them something to eat?” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 3 For there were about five thousand men. And Jesus said to his disciples, “You know what? You’re right. Don’t waste your time and shekels. It would be positively immoral for you to spend any of your hard-earned money for these people. They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves and brought more food. As far as I’m concerned, it’s every five thousand men for themselves.” 4. The disciples were astonished by this teaching. “But Lord,” said Thomas. “The crowd will surely go hungry.” Jesus was amazed at his hard-headedness. “That’s not my problem, Thomas. Better that their stomachs are empty than they become overly dependent on someone in authority to provide loaves and fishes for them on a regular basis. Where will it end? Will I have to feed them everyday?” “No, Lord,” said Thomas, “Just today. When they are without food. After they have eaten their fill, they will be healthy, and so better able to listen to your word and learn from you.” Jesus was grieved at Thomas’s answer. Jesus answered, “It is written: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” So taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and took one loaf and one fish for himself, and gave the rest to the twelve, based on their previously agreed-upon contractual per diem. But he distributed none to the crowd, because they needed to be taught a lesson. So Jesus ate and he was satisfied. The disciples somewhat less so. “Delicious,” said Jesus. What was left over was gathered up and saved for Jesus, should he grow hungry in a few hours. The very poorly prepared crowd soon dispersed.

    The Rich and Therefore Blessed Young Man

    1. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 2. And Jesus said to him, “What have you done so far?” 3. And he said to Him, “Well I was born into a wealthy family, got into a good school in Galilee because my parents donated a few thousand talents for a building with a nice reed roof, and now I have a high-paying job in the Roman treasury managing risk.” 4. Looking at him, Jesus felt an admiration for him, and said to him, “Blessed are you! For you are not far from being independently wealthy.” And the man was happy. Then Jesus said, “But there is one thing you lack: A bigger house in a gated community in Tiberias. Buy that and you will have a treasure indeed. And make sure you get a stone countertop for the kitchen. Those are really nice.” The disciples were amazed. 5. Peter asked him, “Lord, shouldn’t he sell all his possessions and give it to the poor?” Jesus grew angry. “Get behind me, Satan! He has earned it!” Peter protested: “Lord,” he said, “Did this man not have an unjust advantage? What about those who are not born into wealthy families, or who do not have the benefit of a good education, or who, despite all their toil, live in the poorer areas of Galilee, like Nazareth, your own home town?” 6. “Well,” said Jesus, “first of all, that’s why I left Nazareth. There were too many poor people always asking me for charity. They were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and they annoyed me. Second, once people start spending again, like this rich young man, the Galilean economy will inevitably rebound, and eventually some of it will trickle down to the poor. Blessed are the patient! But giving the money away, especially if he can’t write it off, is a big fat waste.” The disciples’ amazement knew no bounds. “But Lord,” they said, “what about the passages in both the Law and the Prophets that tell us to care for widows and orphans, for the poor, for the sick, for the refugee? What about the many passages in the Scriptures about justice?” 7. “Those are just metaphors,” said Jesus. “Don’t take everything so literally.”   SourceTikkun, via altrernet

    They Had a Secret

    Ma and Pa Armstrong share a secret with Garry Moore who asks:

    "Now, how would you feel, Mrs. Armstrong, if it turned out - of course nobody knows - but if it turns out that your son is the first man to land on the moon? What, how do, how would you feel?


    How Accurate are Breed DNA Tests?


    Breed identification DNA tests are a sure-fire way to make money for those who sell them, including veterinarians who are paid for product endorsement.

    But do they work?

    No. In fact, the results shown here are common: a pure-breed dog comes back as being a vague pastiche of three or four breeds.

    Breed DNA tests are not too different from Gypsy Fortune telling, Fortune Cookies, the I-Ching, Numerology and Tarot Card reading: If you give a vague-enough answer, the believers will rationalize whatever result you give them, pounding the square peg into the round hole.

    This is especially true for mixed-breed dogs. The folks sending in their dog's DNA for testing here do not care what the answer is, so long as it answers the question. Even an obviously wrong answer gives them a story to tell when someone, inevitably, asks: "What kind of dog is that?"

    So what's going on? It's pretty simple: there are hundreds of breeds of dogs, but the DNA tests only definitely ID's a few dozen. The gaps are "filled in" by claiming a dog is a cross of this and that.

    But what about the Mars Veterinary WISDOM Panel™ MX or their even newer scam, the WISDOM Panel™  "Professional" that the vets are selling? Surely those veterinarian-administered test works well, right?

    Ughh .... NO.

    But don't take my word for it.

    Mars Veterinary's own web site says the tests are pure crap. Or, to be more precise, they say that if you actually KNOW what AKC breed of dog you have (because you have pedigree papers for your dog going back to the start of the registry more than 120 years ago) then they cannot help you.

    But if you don't know what breed of dog you have, then they can positively tell you what you have.


    Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

    You're kidding, right?

    Nope. Read it yourself here:

    Why can't this test detect purebreds?

    The WISDOM Panel™ MX test was designed to determine the breed makeup of mixed-breed dogs. Its development involved the analyses of more than 19 million DNA markers from more than 13,000 purebred and mixed-breed dogs to best tell breeds in a mixed-breed dog apart.

    In order to determine if a dog is a purebred, Mars Veterinary would ideally need DNA samples that cover all family lines for each breed of purebred dog. But since their focus was the development of a test capable of accurately determining the breeds in a mixed-breed dog, they did not focus on collecting such a catalogue of purebred dog DNA samples.

    What's that mean? Not a damn thing! It's poppycock. It's typing by a monkey. It's stupid on stilts, with a side-order of bunko and larceny.

    It's the get-out-of-jail card the company can point to when their DNA "test" is shown to be inaccurate, pure crap, and a complete fraud.

    In fact, the question itself is paired with this question on the MX web site: "Is Mars Veterinary worried about lawsuits?" This is their answer: Our test is so worthless we cannot identify your breed of dog if it is pure-bred. Our test only "works" when you have no idea what breed of dog you have.

    So, NO: dog breed DNA tests do not work.

    Save your money. Or better yet, donate what you would have spent on this near-worthless test (about $150) to the local no-kill animal shelter.

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Digging on the Dogs

    The rain came down sideways on the way out to the farm.  Through some odd miracle, however, it did not hit the little area I was digging in, though it was washing down the road only an eighth of a mile away.

    The dogs located two possums to ground, and after one short dig and one long dig we called it a day. 

    Just as we left, the rain started down full tilt once again.  We got away lucky!

    Mountain looking up a pop hole.


    Friday, August 24, 2012

    LL Cool J :: Momma Said Knock You Out

    Some fool decided to burglarize LL Cool J. Predictably, "Momma said knock you out."
    Jonathan Kirby, 56, suffered a broken nose, jaw and ribs when he encountered the muscular rapper-actor inside his Sherman Oaks, California, home, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons.

    If Americans Had Digging Competitions

    A repost from this blog, circa December 2005.

    The picture, above, is from a Fell & Moorland digging competition.

    Now there's a fun thing to bring to American terrier shows and trials in the U.S.!

    But how would we organize it?

    Would the women compete head-to-head with the men, since a badly skunked dog in a hole needs to be rescued fast regardless of gender?

    Or would we divide the competition by gender, age, height and weight in order to maximize the ribbon count? That would seem the best American way to do it.

    Then there is the mechanics of it.

    Would people be required to bring their own shovels? If so, perhaps we could get a tool company to sponsor it, as a lot of new tools will have to be bought. That seems like a marriage of expediency and capitalism!

    Would jumpsuits be provided so that the people in their fine clothes would not get too dirty? That seems only fair --- but it will get very hot with two layers of clothing being worn! Perhaps we could hold the competition inside and turn the air conditioning way up?

    If we do move it indoors for the air conditioning, however, there is the problem of the floor. How are we going to dig through the floor of the hotel where the show is being held? Perhaps the answer here can be found in a few hundred bags of fine potting soil purchased at Home Depot?

    But what about the people that cannot dig at all -- the physically infirm or old, or those that have a heart condition? It would be wrong to exclude them. Here's a thought: We allow people to show dogs they did not breed and let those dogs be handled by professional handlers ... why not do the same thing at the digging competition? We could have professional diggers brought in just to win the ribbon. It's all very historical -- after all, it's not like the Duke of Beaufort was digging the dogs himself, was he? He had kennel men and earthstoppers for that. So too did John Russell, who was past 50 when he really got to chasing fox at South Molton.

    Yes, the only real way to do it is with professional diggers, and perhaps a small side prize for "amateur diggers" who will do it themselves, with classes broken out by gender, age, height and weight. Everyone will get a ribbon!

    Excellent! A new American trial sport is born!

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Mitt's Magic Snake Oil Plan

    Mitt Magic.

    It's not just magic underwear and magic tablets.

    It's also magic jobs, magic Medicare, magical non-taxes that balance a magical budget, and of course magic energy.

    It seems in just eight years, Mitt is going to magically give us energy independence forever from magical reserves drilled and mined by magical companies that do it all in magic time, without any environmental problems or profitability problems.

    And how do we know?  Because his campaign has written a magical "white paper."

    Wow.   A 'white paper."  There's never been one of those before! It must be magic! 

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    The Real Work of Modern Dogs Is Psychotherapy

    Sigmund Freud and his dog.

    Dogs are entirely man-made, a function of human choice, and often a choice made by specific people in specific locations.

    The farmers and huntsmen of the fields and fells of Great Britain made working terriers.

    The native people of the Arctic made the sled dogs of the northern snow and ice.

    The stock men of Europe made the hard dogs that could stop angry bulls or wild pigs.

    The Bedouins and Tuareg made the running dogs of the Middle East.

    The shepherds of the borders and highlands of Scotland made the dogs that love and live to herd.

    But do we not have tribes of people today who are still making dogs?

    Yes, the tribes are different, but they still exist, and they are making dogs just the same.

    The terrierman with dirt on his hands has been replaced by the overweight matron with gold lacquer on her finger nails.

    The musher with 13 dogs dogs in harness has been replaced by a fellow with a sled dog on his passenger seat and 200-horses under the hood.

    The bulldog man now owns a wheezing wreck that can barely waddle to the edge of the field where it is trotted out as the team's mascot.

    The running dog is now sprawled on the couch, and instead of a night lamping it might get a slow walk around the block.

    The border man with stout legs and calloused hands has been replaced by a suburbanite whose dogs chase frisbees rather than herd sheep.

    Where are we going in the world of dogs?

    In every direction under the sun, and often straight to hell.

    That said, there is some comfort in this observation:  cool tools never die.

    And really is there any tool so cool as a dog?

    Sure there are a lot of very crappy shovels sold at Lowe's for the "Harry Homeowners" who confuses real digging with putting in a rose bush, but good shovels are still made and sold if you know where to go to find them.

    And so it is with almost everything else apparently, including working dogs.

    Real sheep herding men and women are not runnning to "barbie collie" theorists for stock or advice anymore than gun dog men are going to backyard puppy peddlers, or terriermen are going to Kennel Club pretenders.

    Up in Alaska, the pulling dogs are not registered in the Lower 48, and in the deserts of the Middle East, the test of a dog is not what's written on a piece of paper but whether the hare is returned to hand after a swirling chase in the dust.

    And as for the real bull dog, this country is crawling with well-built Pit Bulls capable of busting, catching and stopping a feral pig on any given night. Hell, we now have TWO television series devoted to their exploits!

    So what does it matter if there are a lot of pretenders in the world of dogs?

    So long as the dogs that result are not too seriouly deformed or genetically defective, what is the harm of barbie collies, tennis ball retrievers, and fantasy fox terriers?

    No, the work of these dogs is not in forest or field.

    Instead, the purpose of these dogs is to give their owners a sense of identity... or perhaps it's to serve as a surrogate child, or a welcome wag after a long day at a soul-crushing job. 

    Perhaps their job is to give their owner a chance to win a beauty contest or an opportunity to work out their long-repressed hair-dresser fantasies.

    But so what? Is it really that odd that this kind of psycho-therapy work has become the real work of the modern dog?

    Yes, many dogs today are transvestite terriers, counterfeit collies, and bogus bird dogs, but as pets most seem to work out fine, even if they are pale immitations of their storied ancestors.

    Isn't that good enough?


    On the Radio

    I was on NPR's Morning Edition yesterday, talking about health care fraud and in one of the quotes they ended up using I talk about ground-truthing.

    The term "ground-truthing" comes from my period working on roadless forest conservation issues.  When you "ground truth" a timber cut or a proposed forest service sale, you put on a pack and hike 12 miles up the mountain to see if what has been said on paper has even the most remote resemblance to the truth.  Not too surprisingly, you often find that a timber cut is larger on the ground than was permitted on paper, and it has also been "accidentally" moved uphill 500 yards so that more large trees fall to saw and chain than were actually bid for.  Whoops!

    But, of course, it's never a mistake.  Humans are predators -- you just have to look at our face to know that.  Predators have eyes that face forward so so they can judge distance when they strike for the kill.  Prey animals have eyes on the side, so they can increase their field of vision, and see the predators coming.  Humans are predators.

    But like all predators, we are opportunistic feeders.  Going after anything too big, or too vicious, or that will strike back with force and fury is maladaptive

    So we cheat on the sly, and we try to make checking hard because someone will either have to hike 12 miles up the mountain, or else they will have to go through 2 million records looking for the cheat, or else they will have to risk losing their job and their career if they are foolish enough to go to the authorities.

    And what happens when companies lie, steal and cheat?  If the fraud is not caught, it's fobbed on to the backs of nameless, faceless taxpayers like us.  If the fraud is caught, the fines are fobbed off on nameless, faceless stockholders.  Either way, almost no one inside the corporation who actually designed, operationalized, or green lighted a really big fraud being done by a really big company ever goes to jail, ever pays a personal fine, or even loses their job.  And the result?  While we recover billions of our stolen dollars every year, this sum represents only a small fraction of what is being stolen, and the behavior itself it not immediately and personally penalized in a meaningful way, which means the essential conduct continues, virtually unabated.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Anabuse for the the Alcoholic Dog

    "I desperately wanted to stop, but I couldn't."

    Barking, like quite a lot of things in life, has its place, but it is also a self-reinforcing behavior, which means it may exhibit when and where it is not wanted.

    In the human world, self-reinforcing bad behavior is sharply curtailed by law, social pressure, or even physical restraint.  Steal money and you go to jail.  Put your hands on a woman in an unwelcome way, and you may get a punch in the nose. 

    But, of course, with things like alcohol, corrective action may take a long time, and may not be very well-timed.  As I wrote back in 2010:

    Aversives, when strong enough and well-timed, make a powerful impression and can fix a lot of problems before they start.

    Imagine if, when you were sixteen years old, you had been shocked just as you reached out to touch that first can of purloined beer.

    Would you have reached for a second? A third? Would you have ever drunk a six pack?

    And if you had not, would you have done better in school? Would you have married a different girl or gotten a different job?

    Would three or four well-timed shocks have changed the entire trajectory of your life?


    But, of course, that's not what happened, is it?

    Instead, you drank the first beer, and the first beer drank the second beer, and before you can say "Bob's your Uncle" you had downed a six pack and discovered the joys of being drunk with members of the opposite sex.

    A lifetime of self-reinforcing  bad behavior without well-timed corrective action, can lead to problems that are difficult to break.  With alcohol, for example, a certain percentage of the population becomes physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually addicted. 

    What can we do about that?

    All kinds of things have been tried, but many of them center on 12-Step Groups which can be thought of as a kind of "pack normalization" exercise for alcoholic humans.  For whatever reason, twelve step programs work.

    That said, not everyone with a very serious and long-term alcohol problem can do it with a 12-step program alone.  Some need a little push from the back.

    One tried and true tool to gain that initial foothold on sobriety is a drug called disulfiram, and which is popularly known as anabuse.  A tablet is given once a day, and the drug stays in the system for one to two weeks.  If, during this period of time, an alcoholic drinks booze, he or she will flush, get nauseous, vomit, experience shortness of breath, get a throbbing headache, and become sick as a dog.

    Most serious alcoholics given anabuse drink again, but very few drink a second time -- the sickness is simply not worth the "benefit," especially since you cannot drink enough alcohol on anabuse to get intoxicated.  It's all pain, no gain.

    And the result?  Anabuse dramatically increases the chance that an alcoholic will "buy enough time" for patterns of new behavior, such as going to 12-Step meetings, to take hold.

    So is there an anabuse equivalent for chronic barkers?  There is: a modern anti-bark collar set to a vibrate and light shock mode. 

    Modern collars allow a dog to bark, but do not allow it to sustain barking, and are triggered by throat vibration as well as noise, so that another dog barking nearby cannot set it off.  Collars can be configured to initially vibrate, and only shock if the barking is sustained.

    Do I favor anti-barking collars?  No, but then I have terriers and made my peace with barking long ago.  My suggestion for those who do not like barkers is to get a rescue greyhound -- these dogs need good homes, are great indoor couch potatoes, and most are dead-silent.  Do not get a breed that barks a lot if you do no want barking!

    Do I think people reach for electronics a little too quickly?  Yes, I do.  Is the dog getting walked twice a day?  Why not?  Are you playing catch with it using a ball, stick, or Frisbee?  Have you tried freezing a really hard Kong toy with paste food inside to give the dog something to work on all day?  How about freezing food inside a large ice block so the dog has something to check on a couple of times a day?  Dogs need mental and physical stimulation.  Give it to them, and most dogs will bark a lot less.   Before you reach for a bark collar to correct your dog's undisciplined behavior, make sure you are really working on your own.

    That said, if you have tried everything else and the next stop is the pound where the dog is likely to be put down, an electronic anti-barking collar may be just the thing to save the dog's life.  Do I favor an anti-barking collar over death at the pound?  Yep; every damn time, and without exception.

    Death before discomfort?  Not in my book, and that's as true with dogs as it is with chronic alcoholics.

    Turn About Is Fair Play


    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Who Lobbies On Behalf of Dog Owners?

    Donald McCaig sent me the following email this morning, and I think it's so true and well-said that I asked if I could post it here, and he has graciously consented. Enjoy!

    The Right to Keep and Love Dogs

    I happened upon a Northern Virginia apartment rental ad which is typical. The $1000 a month renter can have one (25-pound) dog, must pay between $35 and $200 extra rent, and provide an (unspecified) non-refundable pet deposit.

    The Dog Fancy and its tool the AKC, was and is devoted to the very rich who have no trouble keeping or transporting their dogs. Since, for generations, the Fancy sucked up all the air in the American dog room, their indifference to ordinary folk meant that nobody lobbied lawmakers to advocate for sensible dog ownership policies. Nobody.

    Unlike silly old France, Americans can't take mannerly dogs on trains or buses or into cafes. Unlike most of Europe, our dogs are viewed legislatively as public nuisances if not a threat to life and safety.

    The American lower middle class and working poor must deal with onerous, expensive and trivial restrictions that make it far more difficult for them to keep the dogs they love.

    A few figures. There are 25 million Latino voters 16 million African-American, 5 million financial services employees, 3 million farmers, 1.5 million auto industry workers, 400,000 doctors, and _ million LGBT.

    Thirty-nine percent of American households own a dog. Assuming 2 eligible voters per household and 50% participation, that works out to 110 million voters with a dog. Discounting, say 30 million who wish they didn't, that leaves 80 million Americans who care about their dog and would like to have better access and fewer nonrefundable deposits.

    Yet, they have no political power - none.

    We dog owners have no NRA, no American Medical Association, no US Chamber of Commerce, no Farm Bureau, no NAACP, no AARP.

    The only dog organization promising to better the lot of American dogs and American dog owners is the God damned American Kennel Club which has done zip shit.  Must have been too busy grooming.

    Did Seamus ride the Romney roof in vain?

    Mr. 13 Percent

    Mighty white of you MittNow show us your taxes!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    The Vanishing Members of the HSUS

    This is a repost from April 2011

    I work in an office around the corner from Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S.  We have never met, but any time he wants to bring over his direct mail accounting records I am more than happy to buy him lunch.  Fair warning, however: I am a black belt in direct mail accounting practices, and I do not salute nonsense.   And there is a lot of nonsense in HSUS's direct mail accounting.

    Take their membership numbers, for example.

    A while back, I was quoted in a cover story in HSUS's All Animals magazine about the "The Purebred Paradox."  Supposedly this magazine went to all of HSUS's 11 million members.

    Eleven million members?!  Really?  That's a jaw-dropping number.  The NRA has only 2 million members.   

    And so, I waited to get an email or a phone call from someone, somewhere who had actually read the article.  Nothing.  

    OK, I have a common name.  A lot of people who know me don't even know I have dogs -- I have a larger life than that found at the end of a leash.  There is no reason for most people to associate me with dogs.  No matter.

    But surely a cover story in the flag ship publication of the Humane Society of the U.S. about painful health defects intentionally being bred for in pedigree dogs would generate a little secondary reporting in newspapers and magazines around the country?

    Nope.  Nothing.  It was like the article was never written.  Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

    Which got me to wondering.  Did anyone, anywhere, actually really read this story at all?  What were the Humane Society's real membership numbers?  Could HSUS political power be a lie and a complete fabrication?

    Hard to imagine, but guess what?    It's true!

    HSUS's membership is not eleven million.  It's not ten million.  It's not five million, two million or even one million.  

    The true membership of HSUS is less than 450,000 people.  That's the total print run of All Animals magazine, which is mailed to every HSUS member that gives $25 or more, and I assure you that this entire print run is not actually mailed to dues-paying HSUS members.   My best guess is that no more than one in ten people read the magazine's cover story -- 45,000 people or so.  No wonder that article made less noise than a penny thrown down a well!

    But don't just take my word about HSUS's membership numbers.  You see, if you are willing to wade through a 115-page document, you can find those numbers yourself, buried on page 89 of the report they file every year with the Internal Revenue Service.  This is the same federal agency that nailed Al Capone.

    So where does that 11 million number come from which the HSUS features so prominently on its web site?  

    It's a complete untruth. A magical fabrication.  A fantastic fraud. 

    It's a LIE.  Eleven million is not even in the same time zone as the truth.

    So why lie?  What's that all about?

    Simple:  Lying is how the Humane Society of the U.S. claims unearned political power.

    HSUS figures they can lie to their members, the press, Congress, and state legislatures and no one will ever bother to check because no one will ever bother to wade through that 115-page IRS form.

    But I did.  And you can too, by simply going to this link.

    Now to be clear, a lot of organizations lie about their membership numbers.  The most common gambit is to assume that every dues-paying member also represents a spouse or an adult child who might also support the core mission of the organization. 

    Fair enough, I suppose. 

    But what HSUS has done is truly unprecedented.   You see, they have not inflated their true dues-paying membership number by a factor of two or three.... but by more than 24.

    Divide by twenty-four.  

    That's what the board of HSUS and all their supporters should do. 

    Divide by twenty-four.

    Take the salary of Wayne Pacelle -- more than $240,000 a year -- and divide by 24 to see if that "mathematical adjustment" might clarify the extent of the lie that HSUS continues to perpetrate on the American people

    Divide by twenty-four. 

    That's the scope of the lie, and that's why I do not expect to get a call or an email from Mr. Pacelle this week taking me up on my offer to buy him a free lunch if he only will bring along HSUS's direct mail accounting records.  Some free lunches are simply too expensive to accept!

    Freedom Isn't Free

    Why are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ashamed to show us what they have done to support the troops? 

    Why won't they show us their taxes?


    Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro!

    The band DEVO has release a track entitled "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro!" 

    Song at link, below:

    Taking Leave of Our Census

    According to the Census Bureau’s population clock, the U.S. population on Tuesday hit 314,159,265 which is pi times 10 to the eighth, rounded to the nearest whole number.

    Pseudo-math geeks are all high-fiving and ordering more pie, but REAL math geeks humbly point out that Census Bureau data is merely an estimate with known margins of errors.

    In fact the admitted error rate in Census bureau data means that we only know one thing for sure -- the first digit in that number is right. All the others are suspect.


    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    One Shi Tzu... Seven Psychopaths

    Here's a movie.

    What's not to love? I would listen to these guys read the telephone book.

    This could be the best movie about dog kidnapping evah!

    29 Questions You Cannot Ask Mitt Romney

    1. You cannot ask to see either Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan's tax returns.
    2. You cannot ask about Bain Capital and all those jobs that Mitt Romney and his buddies sent to China and India.
    3. You cannot ask about Mitt Romney's record in Massachusetts.
    4. You cannot ask about Paul Ryan's budget.
    5. You cannot ask about Romney and Ryan’s support for the Bush tax cuts which bankrupted the nation.
    6. You cannot ask Mitt Romney about his Swiss bank accounts or the ones he has in the Cayman Islands.
    7. You cannot ask about Mitt Romney’s flip flopping on guns and abortion.
    8. You cannot ask about the unfortunate incident of Mitt Romney’s sick and terrified dog strapped to the roof of his car while he drove from Boston to Canada.
    9. You cannot ask about the failure of Mitt Romney to pay any taxes at all for 10 years.
    10. You cannot ask about the dancing horse or the hefty tax subsidies Mr. Romney uses to support his dancing horse.
    11. You cannot ask about Mr. Romney’s house with an elevator for his cars.
    12. You cannot ask about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s plans to kill Medicare and Medicaid.
    13. You cannot ask about Mr. Romney’s jaw-dropping gaffes in the Middle East.
    14. You cannot ask about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s –plans to privatize Social Security.
    15. You cannot ask about the complete absence of a plan to create American jobs.
    16. You cannot ask about the complete absence of a plan for Afghanistan. 
    17. You cannot ask about their continued ramp up for wars that we are not fighting or are trying to wind down.
    18. You cannot ask when they would bring the troops home.
    19. You cannot ask about how little taxes would be paid by Mr. Romney under Mr. Ryan’s tax plan.
    20. You cannot ask about Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s opposition to contraception, their opposition to in vitro fertilization, and their support for invasive gynecological tests at the order of the state.
    21. You cannot ask what legislative bills Congress Paul Ryan got passed in his 17-year tenure in Washington.
    22. You cannot ask why Mitt Romney will not carry Massachusetts this fall.
    23. You cannot ask about Mormonism or Planet Kolob.
    24. You cannot ask about the federal bailout that Mitt Romney asked for in order to keep “his” winter Olympics going.
    25. You cannot ask Paul Ryan if he think he “built that” when, in fact, Social Security survivor benefits paid for him to go to college.
    26. You cannot ask about the GOP campaign to disenfranchise millions of old, young, black, and working voters.
    27. You cannot ask about the mysterious $100 million that showed up in Mitt Romney’s tax-free IRA account.
    28. You cannot ask Mr. Romney how many houses he has.
    29. You cannot ask Mr. Romney how many illegal aliens he has hired to take care of those houses.

      Don't ask... they won't tell!

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    A Real Predator "Eye in the Sky"

    This is near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in 2011.  The bird they are hunting is the bustard. Hat tip to T.S. Wright for finding this one.

    Digging on the Dogs

    I got out yesterday for the first time since my hernia surgery, and all went well.  No drama to report.

    The dogs located a possum to ground on a sette off the farm road, and I pulled them off that as soon as I was sure it was a possum.

    I leashed up the dogs and we moved off down to a hedgerow, and the dogs found again.  This time it was a small groundhog and, after a little digging, we sent him off to the next world.  I had plenty of time to go find another, but I decided to call it a short day.  All things in moderation, as Julia Child used to advise.


    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    Queers, Negroes, and Femi-Nazis

    A message for white guys.  Yes, there is a time for rage and pitchforks.  There really is.

    Thursday, August 09, 2012

    See More Romney, Vote More Obama

    Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are pictured. | AP Photos

    The New York Times reports
    In Virginia, the New York Times/Quinnipiac University/CBS News survey had [Romney] trailing Mr. Obama by four points. Another survey, from the Republican-leaning firm Rasmussen Reports, put Mr. Obama two points ahead there....

    Mr. Obama’s chances of winning Virginia rose to 67 percent from 59 percent on the surveys, and his projected lead increased to 2.4 points from 1.3 points.

    Fox News reports:
    Obama's lead grows as Romney's support slips

    President Obama has opened his biggest lead since Romney became the presumptive Republican nominee.

    The president would take 49 percent of the vote compared to Romney's 40 percent in a head-to-head matchup if the election were held today, the poll found. Last month, Obama had a four percentage-point edge of 45 percent to 41 percent. This marks the second time this year the president has had a lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error.

    Obama’s advantage comes largely from increased support among independents, who now pick him over Romney by 11 percentage points. Some 30 percent of independents are undecided. Last month, Obama had a four-point edge among independents, while Romney had the advantage from April through early June.


    Stephen Colbert Reminds Us About Values

    Stephen Colbert says he would "rather eat drowned raccoon ass than eat the 'hot turd pie' offered up by Romney's supporters at Papa John's pizza.

    "When you order a Papa John’s pizza, it’s only after you’ve reached a state of such desperate gnawing hunger that you’d eat the ass off a raccoon that drowned in your bird bath, and, even then, only after making absolutely sure that you’re all out of drowned raccoon ass. Now Obama expects you to shell out almost three extra nickels for this hot turd pie? Fuck that! Eat the nickels, you have your dignity.”

    And, of course, Colbert is exactly right.

    Every REAL American would rather eat dead raccoon ass that go backwards to the era before we freed the slaves ("prices will go up!"), before we banned child labor ("two more cents on every shirt"), and before we embraced wage and hour laws ("next, they'll be asking for a day off!").

    Papa John's Pizza, and all the other bottom-feeder fast food restaurants that pump us full of grease and sugar, while paying crappy wages, and offering no health or retirement benefits, are everything that is wrong with this nation.

    Thank you Stephen Colbert for reminding us that values -- American values -- should never be sold down river for a few pennies a day.

    My Lead Dog Was a Lesbian

    Go ahead and buy it for the title alone, but apparently it's a good read

    O'Donoghue tells what happened when he entered the 1991 Iditarod, along with 17 sled dogs with names like Rainy, Harley and Screech. O'Donoghue braved snowstorms, sickening wipeouts, and endured the contempt of more experienced racers. Narrated with icy elan and self deprecating wit, this is a true story of heroism, cussedness, and astonishing dumb luck....

    Hunting the Wild Pug

    This animal was shot in the woods, back when packs of wild pugs roamed the wilds and savaged small children. 

    It was a long time agoSource

    Cooking the Books With Mitt Romney

    Mitt Romney says he pays "a lot of taxes," but he never says he pays a lot of income tax.  

    Why is that? 

    Simple:  According to credible sources, which Mitt Romney has not impeached by producing his own tax records for the last 10 years, Mitt Romney paid no federal income tax at all for a decade.

    Zero.   None.  Empty set.

    How is that possible?   Here's a likely scenario:

    1. Romney paid some taxes, but only sales tax, property tax, and state and local taxes.  The words FEDERAL INCOME are left out of the phrase, "I paid a lot of taxes" for a very specific reason.

    2. The key to understanding Mitt Romney's taxes is that Bain is a private equity company structured so that there are limited partnerships which hold the actual funds invested by the Bain partners. Above this collection of limited partnerships is a management company (Bain Capital) which is the "paymaster" which collects the capital and fees from the partnerships, and which distributes the profits back. This management company not only owns the name of the entire umbrella enterprise (Bain Capital), but also the complete list of all the capital partners.

    3. The actual income of the Bain management company which cuts the checks, owns the Bain name, and also owns the list of all the Bain Capital partners (which may not be known to all the players) is very low -- so low that over the course of 10 years, all the "shares" of the management company could be transferred into a tax-free Individual Retirement Account (IRA) as a (theoretically) low-value asset.  Under such a scenario, Bain Capital would make very little money and own very little as well.  Bain Capital, it would be claimed, is just a desk, a computer or two, and a person who writes letters and checks. 

    4. What happens next is important.   In 1999 or so, Romney decides to extricate himself from Bain Capital, but this process is not swift.  It's a process, not an event.   Part of that process is that over the course of the next few years the limited partners that make up Bain buy out the shares of the management company (Bain Capital) that are held in Mitt Romney's IRA. What happens here is that paper stock once deemed to be of low-value, is now traded for hundreds of millions of dollars in cash.  What is actually (or putatively) being bought from Mitt Romney by the Bain partners?   Two things: the Bain Capital name, and the complete list of limited partners and a full understanding of their financial, social, and tax relationships.

    5. The end result is that Romney ends up with $100 million in his Individual Retirement Account which, like all IRA money, is held tax-free until he is age 65 or until he withdraws it, at which point he will have to pay taxes on it.

    6. Romney may now be paying taxes on income from selling some portion of Bain Capital stock which he did not seed into his IRA, but these very recent tax returns (2010 and 2011) may obscure the fact that up to $100 million was transferred to Mitt Romney between 2000 and 2009  and remains tax free.  In other words, there is a very good chance that for a decade zero federal income tax was paid on an income of $10 million or more per year.

    Is this the "Big Secret: that Mitt Romney is hiding?

    Almost certainly some version of this scenario is what happened. 

    It explains not only how Mitt Romney ended up with over $100 million in a tax-free IRA which otherwise should have no more than $450,000 in it, but it also explains why his extraction from Bain Capital was a lengthy process negotiated over years, how he could have paid no federal income taxes for a decade, and why he will not share anything but his most recent two years of tax records.

    Is there anything illegal with any of this?

    Hard to say.

    If all or a large portion of Bain Capital stock was moved into Mitt Romney's IRA, then when that transfer occurred, and under what theory of valuation, is pretty critical.

    In fact, making sure no one asks that question may be exactly why Mitt Romney has decided he would rather lose the election than have his taxes looked at by a sea of tax experts who would call those transactions into question and perhaps have them disallowed.

    It's not like Mitt Romney's tax schemes have not been called into question before.

    From 1993 to 1998, Romney was the head of the audit committee of the board of Marriott International. During that time, Marriott engaged in a series of complex and notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter schemes called "Son of Boss" which were designed to shelter corporate tax, but which were ultimately disallowed by the IRS.

    To be clear, Romney was not smart enough to think up those schemes -- he was simply the guy on the audit committee at Marriott who gave the green light to an illegal tax avoidance scheme designed to steal scores of millions of dollars of tax revenue from the American people.

    In the end, Marriott lost that gamble in court, and had to cough up over $70 million in taxes.

    The point here is that Mitt Romney is more than OK to gamble and to play close to the edge with the IRS in order to avoid paying taxes.

    In fact, Mitt Romney claims this is actually why he should be elected;   if he was not willing to try extreme measures to avoid paying taxes, then he does not deserve to be President of the United States. 

    No, I am not making that up.

    That is how Mitt Romney thinks, and it is what he has said. And it is exactly why Mitt Romney does not want the American people to see his taxes.

    You see, once upon a time someone did see Mitt Romney's taxes -- that someone was John McCain, who looked at over 20 years of Romney's taxes when he was vetting him to be a possible Vice Presidential choice back in 2008.  And guess what?  John McCain picked Sarah Palin. 

    Have you noticed that in all the brouhaha over Romney's taxes, the one voice that has not stood up to defend Mitt Romney is John McCain?   Silence here may speak volumes!