Thursday, December 31, 2009

A German view of the Nuclear threat from the U.S.

The above article is entitled “America the Baleful, A German view of the nuclear threat . . . from the United States.”  It is another example of our species move away from logical argument – a sign perhaps that we are more strongly embracing Nihilism where “what I say” is important whether or not it has any facts to support it. 

The writer of the article, John Rosenthall, describes a three part documentary on the German public television network ZDF.  The ZDF prime anchor  Claus Kleber narrates throughout.  Rosenthall writes, “For the overriding message of The Bomb is that the nuclear threat is not constituted by Iran, North Korea, and other potential rogue possessors of nuclear weapons, but by the established nuclear powers and first and foremost by the United States. According to the odd sort of nuclear theology proposed by the film, it is the United States that committed the original sin by developing the first nuclear weapons, and the current risk of proliferation is merely the consequence of America's transgression.    

“The viewer gets a first hint of this tenet barely two minutes into the film. Kleber is touring New York harbor with a police patrol boat assigned to protect the city from potential nuclear terror attacks. "The consequences of the Manhattan Project, the construction of the first bomb, come back to haunt its inventors--as a weapon of terror," Kleber intones.

“The consequences of the Manhattan Project? It is as if the Manhattan Project occurred in a vacuum rather than in the midst of the Second World War, with America racing to beat Nazi Germany to the bomb.”

We who are not German may recall that a former German, Albert Einstein, warned President Roosevelt personally that the Germans were working on an atomic bomb and that we Americans needed to build one ourselves to thwart their evil intentions.  Why was Einstein in the U.S. warning the American president of possible German misuse of this technology?   Because the Nazis (not as spiritual as Heidegger had hoped) were bent upon using technology to advance Germany’s war ambitions.

Why did Einstein encourage America to develop its own bomb?  Because Einstein had more faith in America’s Liberal Democracy than he did in Germany’s Totalitarianism.  Has something changed?  Have we in the US become secretly totalitarian without our knowledge?  Or, has “Liberal Democracy” become a danger in some way Kleber doesn’t make clear – because he is unable to, or more probably because he doesn’t feel a need to develop a logical argument to support this allegation. 

Rosenthal writes "’George Bush dared to include Iran in the Axis of Evil: the ancient and cultured nation of Iran,’ Kleber continues, before adding with a dash of schadenfreude: ‘They showed him.’ Instead of being an entirely predictable outcome of the weakness of the U.N. sanctions regime, the progress of the Iranian nuclear program is stylized by Kleber and ZDF into an ‘almost incomprehensible’ demonstration of the greatness of Iranian civilization.

Kleber's amazement is all the more unwarranted in light of Germany's large role in blocking harsher sanctions. In September 2007, Germany reportedly broke ranks with its Western allies in the "P5+1" group (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) and opposed sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. At around the same time, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was pitching a plan for the EU independently to apply sanctions on Iran. Under the Sarkozy proposal, the EU states would bypass the U.N. Security Council and form a sort of economic "coalition of the willing" with the United States. This proposal too was opposed by Germany.”

            It is interesting that the proposal of German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is antithetical to the founding concept of the United Nations; which was that the most powerful nations at the time needed to stay together to keep the other nations from acting aggressively.  Steinmeier turns that on its head when he says “Only if the possessors of nuclear weapons disarm will others be prepared to do without them in the long term.”   There is no thought here of foreign affairs, no thought of the resolution of conflicts, and no thought of any powerful nation keeping a less powerful but nevertheless aggressive nation in line. 

            Rosenthal thinks Steinmeier isn’t presenting a well-thought-out principle but a bit of double talk to protect their ally Iran.  Perhaps, but Steinmeier’s superficial and impractical suggestion is not so very different from Kleber’s approach to his subject.  It is encouraging that Steinmeier’s Social Democratic Party was defeated by Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the last election.  Will common sense eventually overcome Germany’s prevalent resentment against the US?  Probably not.



Re: Richard Rorty, Nietzsche and Jungian Darwinism

One person thought I was saying the Oversoul was God.  The second sentence in my “Comment” reads “Jung hypothesized a sort of “Oversoul” for each species.”  The Oversoul isn’t God – although man seems to want to worship something and in the absence of God he has turned to superstitions of various kinds; so he may have wanted to worship the Oversoul if Jung’s ideas had caught on, but I don’t think they did.  The Oversoul for Homo Sapiens would presumably be more sophisticated than the Oversouls for the other species because it was, if I recall correctly, a projection of our species – like the Mandala in his book on Flying Saucers – or rather the Mandala was our Oversouls answer to the need of something to worship:  You don’t believe in God any longer?  Well here is the Mandala, the Hindu symbol of Perfection, which, Jung points out, looks like a Flying Saucer.

As to there not having been enough time to account for species through the pure randomness of natural selection.  Anthropologist accept that there hasn’t been enough time to account for species through pure uniformitarian randomness, but that is not what they see in the fossil record.  They see “jumps,” periodic “jumps” caused, they argue, by such things as climate change and climate shifts.  They find long periods of time with little change to the fossils; then there is some sort of geologic change.  They find an anomalous layer of sediment and after that the species are changed and new species occur.

And yes, another planet, or better yet planets, to pollute if that is an unalterable characteristic of our species.  Shall we instead commit species suicide because we pollute?  As soon as man gave up his hunter-gatherer existence and settled in little villages, he began to pollute.  Actually he polluted earlier but sort of randomly over the countryside.  But if he was staying mostly in his village then the pollution had to be nearby.  Archeologists love his pollutions.  They find bones of the animals he killed, arrow and spear points and even the occasional evidence of murder. 

To suggest that we shouldn’t hope for the continuation of our species because it pollutes strikes me as rather unpragmatic and shortsighted and perhaps lemming-like.

Anti-technology was a strong element in Heidegger’s philosophy.  He was perhaps a semi-Luddite.  Most nations, he believed, couldn’t handle technology and were better off without it.  Only the Germans were capable of handling technology in the proper spiritual way.  Also, there is a strong Luddite element in the Environmental camp, e.g., you want to progress through here?  You will destroy the Spotted Owl if you do, and the preservation of the Spotted Owl is more important than your “progress.”  You say jobs will be lost?  Tough!  Better to lose your jobs than destroy one species.  The pragmatics of these Environmental concerns are Luddite at heart, it seems to me.

As to war, that too seems to be a characteristic of our species -- and good justification for spreading human kind over “Twelve Colonies” (in BSG thinking) rather than grouping them together on just one planet.   As to fearing a powerful nation, well yes, humans have always done that.  Rome’s neighbors feared Rome, but Rome feared the Barbarians.  That in itself isn’t a criticism of Rome or the Barbarians, it is merely the way we humans relate to each other.  Why bother being hostile to the U.S.?  If the U.S. is replaced by some other powerful nation, say China, will not the Usual Suspects line up to be hostile to China?  This too is a characteristic of our species.

I am not a Jungian, but the Darwinian nature of the Rorty quote made me think of Jung.  Surely something more sophisticated than Natural Selection needs to be involved if we are to understand his “Darwinian picture (as an increasing ability to shape the tools needed to help the species survive, multiply and transform itself.”   If he had suggested that “nations” rather than our species need to shape these tools in order to enable us to survive against each other that would seem more understandable.  If he had said we need better tools as “survival strategies” against each other that would seem more intuitively true than saying we need them as a survival strategy for our species as a whole.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Richard Rorty, Nietzsche and Jungian Darwinism

On page 3 of Essays on Heidegger and Others, Richard Rorty writes, “ . . . when you switch over from Deweyan talk of experience to Quinean-Davidsonian talk of sentences, it becomes easier to get the point of Nietzsche’s famous remark, in ‘Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense,’ that truth is a ‘mobile army of metaphors.’

            “I interpret this remark along the lines of my treatment of Davidson’s treatment of metaphor . . .  I take its point to be that sentences are only things that can be true or false, that our repertoire of sentences grows as history goes along, and that this growth is largely a matter of literalization of novel metaphors.  Thinking of truth in this way helps us switch over from a Cartesian-Kantian picture of intellectual progress (as a better and better fit between mind and world) to a Darwinian picture (as an increasing ability to shape the tools needed to help the species survive, multiply, and transform itself).”

            COMMENT:   When I read this, I immediately thought of Jung.  Jung hypothesized a sort of “Oversoul” for each species.  The Oversoul manipulates the general or collective actions of the individuals of a given species for its own good.  It takes responsibility for a specie’s “survival strategy.”     

            Jung’s thesis seems consistent with the idea of “intellectual progress” involving an “increasing ability to shape the tools needed to help the species survive, multiply, and transform itself.”   One might think of Jung as providing a more sophisticated form of Darwinism.  That is, whereas “Natural Selection” is a pragmatic use of chance, the Oversoul involves intentionality.  Jung’s thesis would answer one of the objections to Darwinism, namely that there hasn’t been enough time since life began on earth to account for the development of species with the randomness that Natural Selection involves. 

            Then, in a tenuous intellectual leap I wondered whether this Oversoul, if it exists, is inspiring us to take our species off planet in order to survive, multiply and transform ourselves on other planets.   We in the US worry about the nature and danger represented by Islamism, but other nationalities worry about other things.  In the current issue of The Weekly Standard is an article by John Rosenthal entitled “America the Baleful, A German view of the nuclear threat . . . from the United States.”  The Germans, some of them, seem to be worried about us.  Skipping whatever validity there is in the German fear, let us accept the idea that we spend a lot of time worrying about and mistrusting each other.  If there is a Jungian Oversoul, thinking logically from the Jungian assumption, it might well be stirring things up to hasten our departure from earth.

            This sounds like fanciful speculation, and perhaps it is, but those who see the Earth as all there is want to take us in a Luddite direction: get rid of the machines.  Get rid of Technology, and we can perhaps learn to bring ourselves back into harmony with nature.  Don’t worry about the sun one day going nova and destroying the earth.  Our species will  have disappeared by then anyway.  That strikes me as rather “Neville Chamberlain” of them.  Are they really content to seek peace for our species during a limited life time rather than pursue our continuation off-planet?   I suppose they are.  The Luddite Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski seems to have been.

            In ancient days there were “portents in the skies” warning of coming disasters.  Nowadays we have disaster movies.  You can watch movies about comets, asteroids, tsunamis, 10.0 earthquakes, alien invasion, plagues and nuclear disasters.  As for myself, I’ve recently begun watching the series, Battlestar Galactica.  Yes the Cylons did come and destroy human life on the Twelve Colonies, but the Battlestar Galactica has escaped and hopes to find the mythical world, Earth.  Most think Earth never existed.  Even Commander Bill Adama believed it was a myth, but he lied to the small colony following Batttlestar Galactica, telling them he knew where Earth was, in order to give them hope.  Okay, I can accept that, but for now let’s worry about getting to the Twelve Colonies.  We can worry about the Cylons and whether Earth really exists later.


Is Obama "trying to pretend"?


In the above article which builds upon a statement made by Dick Cheney, Obama is in essence accused of reverting the Democratic party to the days of Clinton, during which the first attack against the World Trade Center was treated as a criminal matter.  The Obama administration’s response included the following: “The difference from the last administration is that we are at war with that which is tangible — Al Qaeda, violent extremists, and terrorists — rather than at war with a tactic, ‘terrorism’.”   

            Cheney continues with the view that we are at war with Radical Islam.  This view has been well developed by scholars and journalists:  A substantial percentage of Muslims subscribe to the teachings of Qutb, Maududi, Khomeini and a host of lesser lights.  They seek to pick up the military cudgel dropped by the followers of Mohammad and advance the cause of Islam by any means necessary.  They claim to be resuming Mohammad’s “Jihad.”  They claim to be at war with all “infidels.”   Subscribers to the Cheney view believe that 9/11 was part of the Islamist Jihad against “the chief among the infidel nations,” the United States.

            There is another view, one advanced by European scholars, especially Olivier Roy and Jules Kepel who argue that while “Globalized Islam” exists, it is not a regimented force like the Nazis and Communists.  It is searching for an identity, “for a new Ummah,” Olivier Roy writes.  As to those causing actual trouble, the tangible “violent extremists and terrorists,” well they are a small minority of alienated educated Muslims and not representative of “Radical Islam” as a whole.

            While I lean toward the view that “Radical Islam” aka “Islamism”  is a serious threat and wish that Bush had said we were at war with it and not with terrorism, I do not rule out the possibility that the Roy, Kepel, and Obama may turn out to be correct.  In support of the Cheney view there is no doubt that those who subscribe to Islamism represent a huge percentage of Islam as a whole.  There may be as many as 300,000,000 who believe in those radical teachings.  Even though the “tangible” forces in the field are small in number they have they support of the rest of the 300,000,000 who stay at home.  Cheney might “hope” that the rest of the 300,000,000 continue to stay at home, but he would rather prepare for worse cases.

            The Roy-Kepel-Obama view is more variegated but it includes the idea of wooing the Islamists.  Sure, maybe there are 300,000,000 Muslims who are attracted to radical ideas, but they haven’t acted on their beliefs yet; so let’s woo them to a less radical point of view.    

            Cheney is not presently in office, Obama is, so the wooing process will continue.  Voices such as Cheney continue to argue that it won’t work and that we may as well settle down to the idea of a protracted war.

            If serious Islamist attacks continue to be thwarted, overt Islamic Radicalism could eventually peter out.  In which case the Cheney, Obama arguments would peter out as well – to be replaced, no doubt, by an argument over which position truly thwarted the Radical Islamic threat.  On the other hand if Al Qaeda or some other group manages a large 9/11-type attack or a series of substantial attacks in the West, the Cheney view would gain credence.  If Radical Islam develops the means to ramp up its attacks then surely the wooing process must be abandoned – at least here in the U.S.  The voter would demand it by voting the wooers out of office. 


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Heideger's Junker tradition

I decided to spend some time thinking about what Heidegger’s “Tradition” might be, that is, the place back there in Germany’s history where one should go to achieve Heideggerian authenticity.   I decided to look in A. J. P. Taylor’s The Course of German History.
Taylor wrote this book in 1944.  He published a new edition in 1961 and explained in his preface that he only corrected a few factual errors and left the book largely unchanged.  Taylor bucked current thinking during his career.  Or, to give him credit, he thought things through for himself and hang those who took offense.  Taylor was a notorious Germanophobe.  He explains in his 1961 preface that the occasion of his book was the rejection of a previous work on the Weimar republic because of its being “too depressing.”  He did some further study and this book contains his conclusions.
He wrote on page 7, “The Germans were enthusiastic for a demagogic dictator and engaged [in] a war for domination of Europe. But I ought to have shown that this was a bit of bad luck, and that all Germans other than a few wicked men were bubbling over with enthusiasm for democracy or for Christianity or for some other noble cause which would turn them into acceptable allies once we had liberated them from their tyrants.  This seemed to me unlikely.  I therefore went further back into German history to see whether it confirmed the argument of my rejected chapter; and this book is the result.  It was an attempt to plot the course of German history; and it shows that it was no more a mistake for the German people to end up with Hitler than it is an accident when a river flows into the sea, though the process is, I daresay, unpleasant for the fresh water.”
Taylor describes the “ascendancy of France, 1792-1814,” as an important milestone for the Germans.  On page 33-34 he writes, “In Germany those who desired liberal reforms did nothing to promote their own cause; they waited passively, though querulously, to be liberated by the French, and the force which gave Germany the career open to [their] talents was not the force of the German peasants, but the force of the French peasants in its organized form of the French Army.  The German liberals had no agrarian programme and no sympathy with the propertyless masses, whom they despised as obscurantist and reactionary; nor had they any feeling that liberal institutions needed to be fought for and defended . . .   In the twenty years between 1794 and 1814 . . .  most of western Germany received the benefits of the French Revolution – freedom of enterprise, equality before the law, security of property and of the individual, cheap efficient administration.  But the Germans received these benefits without any exertion of their own . . . .”
“These great reforms were liberal, but they were French.  A startling consequence followed.  French interference in Germany stirred into patriotism the natural resentment against the interference of strangers.  Most educated Germans (themselves a tiny class) welcomed the benefits imposed by the French; a few, however, began to parade a German nationalism, the sole quality of which was hostility to French rule.  But French rule was synonymous with liberal reform.  Therefore German nationalism took on from the start an anti-liberal character.  To desire the career open to the talents or a rational and ordered system of government was to be pro-French and therefore unpatriotic.  All the evils of the old order, the drill sergeant and the Junker, came to be regarded as essentially German. . . .”

COMMENT:  Heidegger would undoubtedly think it was unfair of me to impose the Germanophobic Taylor on his location of Cultural authenticity, but I can’t help but notice that Heidegger himself was anti-liberal.  Would he have identified with the “tiny class” of “educated Germans” during this period.  He did have a fondness for Holderlin who was of this tiny class, but I can’t help but suspect a fondness for the Prussian Junker as well, the spirit of whom flowed down the river toward the sea of World War II.  In Heidegger’s longing for a “great leader” he would have had the Prussian Junker tradition in mind surely.  He later saluted smartly and held his arm out in emulation of Prussian Junker enthusiasm, and I can’t see Holderlin in this enthusiasm – maybe later when he came to his senses.
            As an aside, I was reminded of the French anti-Americanism that followed our liberation of France from Germany after 1944.  Yes there were those who like the “tiny class” of “educated Germans” saw the value of the Anglo-American liberation.  But there was also the mindless Junker-type reaction against the “foreigner” who was in their land.   When one encounters Europeans biting the hands that rescued them, one is inclined to take a Jacksonian stance and say, “see!  We should have stayed out of that European war as well.” 
            Engaging in a Niall Ferguson “counterfactual” one wonders what would have become of the Third Reich if the Germans had won.  Would they have gone on attempting to conquer the world?  Or would they like the USSR have decided a Cold War was the best compromise they could make.  The Anglo-Americans would have had atomic weapons first, but the Germans could have obtained them as quickly as the USSR did.  Would they have risked the destruction of their hard-won Lebensraum? 
            Then too, we recall that Hitler didn’t believe those who followed him would be as relentless as he was.  He thought the next generation would be much softer than he was.  That is not an unreasonable expectation in light of the Soviet experience.  On the other hand, the Prussians had a tradition of being willing to die for honor.  The equivalent of the Cuban missile crisis might have turned out very differently if the Germans had won.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On choosing Ridgebacks


            There are no answers that fit everyone.  When someone is new, I always suggest that the person should choose a breed most suited to her situation.  In some cases the person already has a dog so that advice might seem moot, but dogs die and there will most likely be a next time for most of us -- unless we die first.  The advice is still good.  Seek the breed that is most suited to your situation.

            Interestingly, my wife's "situation" included a certain idea of beauty.  She had a need to have the most beautiful dog she could get.  Prior to marrying me she knew almost nothing about pure-bred dogs and she did go along with me somewhat in agreeing to letting me buy her one, but it had to be one that met her requirements and she worried not in the least about a dog being too strong for her.  If she got what she wanted she would do whatever was necessary to make that dog work out.  It was a difficult journey for her – not so much for me since I like a lot of different breeds – but she had to struggle to learn and to get the proper training so she could handle a Rhodesian Ridgeback the way her father handled his Rottweiler – and she succeeded with Trooper. 

            We lived in a condo in Garden Grove at the time, with a tiny backyard; so there was no possibility of a Ridgeback getting adequate exercise from the yard and Susan.   It seems very like what a Ridgeback might be confronted with in a large city – no chance for adequate exercise.  However, I resolved to give her Ridgeback his exercise and most evenings would take him out for a jog.   I searched for good jogging routes, would put the dogs in the back seat and off we'd go.  I'd park and then we'd head off on a jog.  When we got back to the car I'd give them water and we'd drive home.

            While I was at work, Susan would take Trooper with her when she went on errands.  She would always include a chance to walk with him, but she wouldn't cover the distances we did on our jogs.  

            Susan's health is such that she can no longer handle a Ridgeback.  She wanted to and entered Ginger in an agility class when Ginger was young, and Ginger did well.  She seemed to learn more quickly than almost all the others in the class, but Ginger would find opportunities after completing an exercise to rush off and visit one of the other dogs.  The instructor finally banished Ginger and Susan and told Susan to bring Ginger back after she had received some obedience training.  Susan wanted to do that with Ginger but her health failed once again.  So Ginger and then Sage received only the obedience training that I have given them. . .  .

            One can perhaps see that all my tales of hikes and late-night walks on farm roads are but subplots to Susan's desire to have Ridgebacks in her life.  For her the Ridgeback is the perfect breed.  Even though her health was such that she wouldn't be working with or exercising the second dog we got after Ginger.  I had wanted a smaller dog at the time -- an Irish Terrier, but she talked me into getting a second Ridgeback, and that is how we got Sage. 

            And now for me also the Ridgeback seems a perfect match, but mightn't that just be that I have adapted?  I have earlier experiences with other breeds and they all seemed good matches at the time; so I suspect the seeming inalterability of my present attachment to Ridgebacks.  It is tied to my attachment to Susan in a way I don't fully understand.

            As to small breeds misbehaving because large men "muscle them" rather than train them, I have read something different.  The small breeds (whether all or just some I don't recall), I read, were developed because women, perhaps middle-aged women, wanted dogs to keep them company, to be in their laps and be, in a way, like the children they had raised.  Some small breeds even have a non-dog-like head that resembles a baby's head.   In watching Cesar Milan's program it seems as though a high percentage of the problem dogs are dogs of that sort.  The woman wanted to baby the dog and the dog ended up thinking it was the dominate being in the household.  I never saw a case where Cesar had to correct a large man for muscling his small dog down the street. . .   Do they really have large men being held to a standstill by Chihuahuas in NYC?  "Large Cities" are a kind of experiment when you look at the whole sweep of human development.  I tend to think that experiment might one day be declared a failure.

            And if truth be told, my own "situation" is one in which I am very used to and comfortable with Rhodesian Ridgebacks.  My son who has Airedales predicts that when the time comes, that is, after I lose one of my girls, I'll get another Ridgeback.  Perhaps he is right but I would prefer – at least most of the time I think I would prefer -- at least one dog of a different smaller breed.  Susan is no longer capable of doing anything with the Ridgebacks; so she wouldn't object if I got something different next time.  It might be an Irish Terrier, or an Airedale.  I have been considering a Thai Ridgeback recently.  There is a breeder about 100 miles from me that breeds large Thais – males up to 75 pounds.  That may be large for a Thai Ridgeback but it is small compared to what I am used to.  But someone else told me that his Blue-coated Thais have skin allergies and perhaps shouldn't spend a lot of time in the sun.  And that is one of the things we do a lot of: spend time in the sun.

            As to Ridgebacks not needing as much exercise as some other breeds, I'm not sure that is true.  In fact I suspect it isn't.  Ridgebacks won't bug you as much as some other breeds, but they need as much exercise as they can get if they are going to be truly healthy.  They were designed to work all day hunting and most of our Ridgebacks couldn't manage that today.  When we go to the river, my girls chase rabbits and each other in the sand which strikes me as very good exercise, but we are almost never down there longer than an hour and a half.  Once we get home they crash.  How would they be if they had to hunt a lion all day?  I do my best but I don't have them up to that level of conditioning. 

            "Large enough Airedale"?  If I were going to get an Airedale, there are two breeders I would consider.  One breeds "working Airedales" and a male from him might weigh 75 pounds.  If I chose one of these I would be doing so because I was convinced his "working Airedales" were healthier than the "show Airedales" I might consider. But there is another breeder, a long-term breeder who claims that even though her Airedales are show quality, they are very healthy and her "line" doesn't have the diseases in it that other lines do.  A male from her would weigh 45 pounds and a female 40 pounds.  If I were recommending an Airedale as a smaller alternative to a small woman, I would of course have the smaller variety in mind.

            As to smaller terriers requiring more exercise, some of them manage a lot of exercise on their own.  I have a fair-sized back yard but it isn't enough for my Ridgeback girls to get up a good head of steam.  But it might be enough for an Irish Terrier to do so.  I would never mean a yard to be the only source of exercise, but it would help in a pinch, say if I got the swine flu and were laid up for awhile. 

            An Australian Cattle Dog was indeed bred to herd Australian Cattle which they probably don't have an abundance of in NYC.  My list would have been much shorter if I were intending it to suit someone living in NYC.  In fact I would probably have difficulty adding most of the dogs we've been discussing to it.  My imagination may not be up to the job.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Further on Ad Hoc Training of Ridgebacks

In regard to my previous note, I had in mind, for example, the critical times when a dog isn't trained but is still strong.  Many trainers don't recommend formal training until a dog is over 6 months.  Trooper was a very powerful dog at that age.  I was referring to the critical times when an owner has to "overpower" her dog in some way – either through a tug-of-war at one end of a leash or over something else.  If you know those times are coming, and especially if you are new to the game, you will have less trouble with a medium-sized breed than you will a large breed like a Ridgeback. 

Also, why have the determinative factor be the training?  Why not choose the dog that is most suitable to you and your situation and have that be the chief determining factor?  I'm reminded of my father-in-law who was very much into training.  He trained horses and trained his dogs the same way.  His last dog, a Rottweiler named Rommel was highly trained.  He often said that he could take any dog from any breed and train it the same way he trained Rommel.  "But why would you want to," I asked on more than one occasion?  For him there was a "right way" and a "wrong way" for training any breed, and he knew the right way.  We had many an argument.  Hiking?  He never hiked.  If you went up into the mountains, you needed a horse.  Jogging?  He never jogged either.  To say "it depends" didn't mean anything to him.

Consider a new owner.  She isn't going to "know" in advance that she has the resources to take a dog through a long-term training regimen.  I suspect that most people are buying their first dog on "hope" rather than on "absolute knowledge."  And it is helpful to know that some breeds are more forgiving to such owners than others.  Also, sex matters.  Female Amstaffs, for example, will be easier on a new owner than males.  That isn't true of Irish Terrier's from what I've heard, but it is of some breeds. 

One other question is to ask what the "norm" has been in human-canine relations for the (perhaps) 140,000 years of their association?  I can promise you it wasn't formal dog training classes.  And yet despite not having those classes, they (humans and canines) somehow worked it out.  In areas like San Jacinto that could still be true – and probably is.  In that new thing in the world, the "big city," that may no longer be true – it probably isn't.


Ad hoc training of Ridgebacks in San Jacinto

When I was still working I lived in Garden Grove which isn't as congested as NYC but much more so than San Jacinto.  In those days the dogs and I didn't walk, we jogged.   I spent a lot of time jogging with Trooper and Heidi.  I used normal collars and leashes and a stout belt holding up my trousers.  I would hold their leashes in my left hand, grab hold of my belt with it and off we'd go.  If my left hand got tired I would switch to my right.  If they winded me, I'd slow them back down to a walk, but as often or not Heidi or Trooper would want to stop to sniff something before I got winded.

But in San Jacinto when we can't make it down to the river (because the days are too hot down there), we do walk on leash.  There are no good places to jog, at least I didn't think so – at least not with dogs.    The streets and sidewalks are poorly lighted and poorly cared for.  There are lots of things to trip over which I discovered to my rue.  Also, I developed some eye problems.  In short, I injured my left arm at some point and had to change my philosophy a bit: no more chasing after rabbits or squirrels while I had hold of the other end of the leashes.  

I learned to snap the leashes.  Ginger gave up pulling almost immediately, but Sage was more intense.  But even she gave it up after awhile.  Rabbits and squirrels can now run by in front of us with nary a quiver from Ginger and only a bit of one from Sage. 

What Sage may do now is push the envelope – out on a dark night on an empty farm road when there is an interesting smell or sound up ahead.  I don't mind her walking out front and I don't mind a bit of eagerness, but there is an imaginary line which she sometimes crosses.  So she gets a refresher snap on her rump – sometimes two.  As I said, she is intense. 

Susan, as I may have mentioned is a slightly built lady who at 5' 6" never got above 125 pounds.  It was Susan who insisted on a "big dog" and eventually selected the Rhodesian Ridgeback.   She took Heidi and later Trooper to training classes so she could handle them.  She did use the pronged collars and choke chains at different times.  And yet Trooper got so good with her that she could have walked him off leash if she'd had a mind to – in busy places with people and other dogs passing by. 

So if you are a strongly built fellow who likes to jog or hike then formal training may not be important.  But if you are a lightly built lady who nevertheless wants a powerfully-built dog then you must allow yourself and your dog to be trained.  I never went through the sort of training Susan did, but I often went with her to the classes and saw what she put herself through.  She was a very committed lady and perhaps that level of commitment is necessary. 

I must add, however, that the Ridgeback was not my choice for Susan.  I was still working in those days and wanted her to have a protective dog while she was home alone, but good grief there are many protective dogs much smaller than the Rhodesian Ridgeback.  So my initial advice to Susan (which she rejected) was to get a medium sized dog that is also protective: A Standard Schnauzer, Irish Terrier, Airedale, Boxer, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Sharpei, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Puli, , the Welsh Corgis

But Susan would rather go through the pain (both physical and mental) of training a large energetic hound than endure the presence of any of the "ugly dogs" I listed above.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rhodesian Ridgebacks and hermeneutics

In modern philosophy (hermeneutics) we know that it isn’t just the “text” that should be considered, but the reader of that text.  The reader always brings something to his reading.  Something like that is true of dog training as well.   Those who say a “text” must mean one thing and one thing only to whomever reads it are living in the past.  We have different abilities, different experiences, different interests and we need to recognize that what we get from a text (or a dog) won’t necessarily be what someone else gets.

I have had Ridgebacks since 1986 and have never been challenged.  I have never had a Ridgeback be pushy or insistent on getting his or her own way.  Why is that?  It isn’t necessarily the dogs I happened to have acquired.  I have a rather forceful personality and have observed that my dogs just want to do what I want.   I don’t have to do any of those “how to dominate your dog” things. 

There is evidence that Canis Familiaris and Homo Sapiens have had a symbiotic relationship from almost the very beginning of their existences – not the mere 15,000 years that anthropologists (and many dog books) have suggested.  In all those years there have surely been countless relationships.   There was never “just one way” to relate to a dog, or how to train one. 

The “how to dominate your dog” tricks are for people who aren’t naturally dominate.  Yeah, if you aren’t a very dominate person and happen to get a dominate dog, then you had better learn some of those tricks.   A meek person might want to avoid the alpha male or female if she has the choice.

Of course getting the runt of the litter has its own set of problems.  My German Shorthaired Pointer Heidi was the runt.  Furthermore, when we saw her she was trying to hide from her litter mates.  She was not only the runt but a picked-on runt.  Heidi needed to be encouraged rather than dominated and that’s what we did.  She blossomed beautifully.  She became a marvelous girl and I still miss her.  Some people might find it easier to encourage the runt than dominate the alpha female.

Heidegger's poet-creator

Trifles deserve to be trifled with but I’ve been reading Freud on parapraxis and wonder why it is I have begun to neglect Heidegger for trifles – or, what an erratic mind I must have to so readily shift from serious Heidegger to poetry and trifles. 

Now I could argue that Heidegger himself sought to concentrate more on poetry as he progressed.  He may have ended by valuing poetry above philosophy.  But I cannot claim to have progressed logically from Heidegger’s philosophy to poetry unless parapraxis was also at work in me.  I have not concentrated so much upon Heidegger that I can imagine the thought processes that led him from the nihilism of his existentialism (he abhorred nihilism) to tradition and poetry.  I have an idea of what he saw in tradition although I won’t swear that this idea is Heidegger’s and not mine, but his interest in poetry eludes me – except that he thought of poets as creators, creators even of civilizations.  Of course he didn’t mean just any poet.  Minor poets I’m sure haven’t created civilizations, but Holderlin was a civilization-creating poet.  I suspect that Heidegger was being overly ambitious here.  He thought of Holderlin as his poetic predecessor and of his own philosophy as creating the new civilization – at least as much as Rousseau, Descartes, Kant, and Hegel created civilizations.  For if we think of an ethnicity’s “authentic” tradition we must (if I understand Heidegger) find both tradition and the poet-creator back there.  It is the poetry of Holderlin and whatever Heidegger concluded was authentic in tradition that provides authenticity. 

And where is America’s civilization-creating poet?  Surely if we have one it must be Walt Whitman.  He wasn’t all the way back in our founding fathers day, but an argument could be made that the American civilization wasn’t truly launched until we had our Civil War.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All you need is Love, A Trifle

“Sally Ann, do you have any idea how much I love you? . . . Sally? . . . could you put that book down and listen? . . . the apple too?”

“Must I, Sidney,” she said without putting anything down?  In fact, one of her eyebrows went up.

“Come on Sal.  This is important.  I want your undivided attention.”

“Before I give that to you, I’d like some assurance you are going to be more explicit than the last time we had this phenomenon.”

Sidney threw up his hands in exasperation. 

“Don’t do that, Sidney.  I’m not a dumb blond.”

“I never thought you were – far, far from it as everyone knows.”

“Then don’t do that.  I’m not a bimbo either.”

“Good grief, Sal.  What would put such an idea in your mind?  It was never in mine.  I came home full of love for my gorgeous wife and you are breaking the spell.  If I weren’t so excited and full of explanation, I wouldn’t be able to go on.”

“Are you fuller than the last time, because last time you were more drunk than explanatory?”

“I’ve only had two little drinks, and I’m far below .08% which is the legal driving limit.  If I’m good enough to drive, I’m good enough to tell my wife I love her.”

“Very well.  I’m listening,” Sally said, going back to her book.

“What happened to the hot and fiery Sally Ann I married six years ago?”

“I don’t know.  Is she the one you are going to express your love to or is it this one here with the book in her lap,” she asked, smiling up at him around the apple she held in her teeth?

Sidney shook his head and walked over to the liquor cabinet.  “I’m going to have a scotch and water.  Do you want something?”

“Maybe.  What wine goes with apple?”

“Oh I don’t know.  Madeira or Port ought to go pretty well, or maybe one of your Greek wines -- Retsina maybe.”

“Okay, bring me a glass of Retsina.”

“We don’t have any.”

“Well, why offer it to me?”

“I didn’t.  You asked what wine went with apple, and I don’t really know.  We don’t have any Port or Madeira either.  We’ve got some Sherry.  Do you want some of that?”

“Oh Sidney!  Just let me eat my apple and read my book.  I don’t want anything to drink.”

“Nor to hear how much I love you, I take it.”

“Sidney, Sidney,” she said, turning a page.  “You don’t know how much you love me.”

“Of course I do.”

“Then why did you ask me?”

“That question was rhetorical as you know perfectly well,” he said testily.

“Is that a bit of anger I hear, dear Sidney,” she asked turning toward him with eyes wide in mock horror?

“Disappointment, Sally Ann – that your mood doesn’t match mine.”

“What do you expect?  It’s two, going on three scotch and waters shy.”

“The scotch has nothing to do with my moods as you well know.”

“Oh, I know, Sidney.  Calm down.  But your depressive moods seem a little easier to handle than your manic ones.”

“Come on, Sally.  Be nice.   I’m not manic-depressive and you know it.  I’m just a devoted husband who loves his wife.”

“His bimbo wife.”

“Not true.”

“His trophy wife?”

“I might agree to that.”

“Well there you go then.  One does not love a trophy. One possesses it.  You win it and put it on the mantle or hang it on the wall.  See there, you say to your friend.  That was my last duchess, and then you go on to tell him how you had her killed.”

“That’s not an example I would use.  I prefer “How shall I love thee, let me count the ways . . .”

“I’ll bet that’s all you know.  You don’t know a single way that she loved her husband, do you?  If you had to write that poem you would write ‘do you know how many ways I love thee’ and hope I came up with a few.”

“You are being exasperating, Sally Ann.”

“Okay that’s one.  Keep going.”

Sidney shook his head and then brightened.  “Is Jimmy asleep?”

“Okay, that’s another.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your asking if our son is asleep implies rather obviously that you love me in bed.  That’s another.  Keep going.”

Sidney shook his head again.  “You know there was a time I could have had my pick of bimbos.  Why did I have to pick one with brains?”

“Ah.  That’s bad: a step backward.  Two steps forward and one step back.  I think Lenin wrote a pamphlet with that title.”

“Maybe I’ll go see if there’s a ball game or a boxing match on.  This conversation isn’t at all going the way I wanted it to.”

“Maybe I was the one who married a bimbo, Sid.  You are awfully cute, especially when you’re mad: that neat little blond haircut suits you really well.  And I love that little mustache of yours, and that crinkly-eyes smile you do when you are smiling, which doesn’t happen to be now.  And those dreamy eyelashes. . . .”

“Are you counting the ways?”

“Why not?  You seem to have run down.  In fact you are going backwards.  I thought I might as well start on a list of my own . . . which by the way is longer than yours.”

“But you don’t want to go to bed now?”

“I never said that.  You did.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Who just announced he was going into the other room to watch a boxing match – or some other mindless male sports drivel?”

“Only because you weren’t in the mood.”

“In the mood to count ways?  Sure I am.”

“In the mood to go to bed.”

“Ah.  Now it comes out.  That ‘do you know how much I love you’ was baloney – a pretense – a primitive excuse for foreplay – in short, a lie.”

“It wasn’t a lie.”

“Oh no?  Let’s roll this conversation back to the beginning then.  You have just walked in.  Your face is ruddy from two scotch and waters and you produce your momentous cliché, ‘do you know how much I love you’?  You ask me that despite my well-known hatred of clichés, but let’s skip past that and whatever I actually did say and start over.  I bat my eyelashes at you fetchingly and say, ‘no, Sidney.  How much do you love me?  And you say . . . that’s your cue, Sid.  You say . . . .”

“I say you are sounding a bit like Elizabeth Taylor at the moment.”

“Good.  Then here’s your chance to sound like Richard Burton.”

“Did they end up in bed in that movie?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then I’ll pass.”

“Would you rather be witty and clever or make love?”

“Make love.”


“Philistines need loving too.”

“Not Philistines who use clichés.”

“Everyone uses clichés.”

“Not when trying to tell your trophy wife how much you like seeing her hanging on the wall.”

“I never meant you were merely a trophy wife.  You require far more attention than an ordinary trophy wife would.”

“Ouch.  Another step backward.  Unless I’ve missed count that’s two steps forward and four steps back.  Next time you’re in such a loving mood, you might consider staying late for work, or perhaps having two less scotch and waters.”

“I only had two.”


Sidney threw his head back and sighed.  Then he leaned forward and asked, “how was your day at the University.”

“Not good.  No one is interested in the classics anymore.  They don’t know the difference between Salamis and Salami, Boeotia and baloney.  They think it’s all baloney.”

“Ah ha.  You had a bad day.”

“Of course I had a bad day.  Any normally sensitive husband could have sensed that rather than rattling on out of his scotch and waters.  Every day is a bad day if you’re trying to interest modern air-heads in something that happened prior to Elvis.  They are interested in the latest music and the latest clothes.  The only people they care about are singers, actresses and actors.  No one would have signed up for my class if they didn’t think I was hot.”

“Greeks loved beauty.”

“That’s a fallacy my dear Sidney.”

“How so?”

“The Greeks loved beauty.  My air-heads loved beauty.  Therefore my air-heads are in some way like the Greeks.  They aren’t.”

“Come on, Sally.  The Greeks weren’t like the Greeks.”

“She gave him a withering look.  “That statement is vacuous.”
“Only a tiny percentage did anything worthwhile.  The rest were farmers, hoplites or pulled an oar on some trireme.”

That argument won’t wash Sid.  Not everyone in the Elizabethan period was a Shakespeare, but they flocked to the Globe to watch his plays.  That is why we call it a period.  The same is true of Periclean Greece.   Also, those Spartans had something that is sadly missing in this modern age where no one believes in anything.”

“Spartans plural?  Don’t you mean a few like Leonidas?”

“No I don’t.  Leonidas wasn’t by himself at Thermopylae.  There were 299 others with him.”



“I Read that two of the 300 were sick so Leonidas made them stay in Sparta.”

“So what, Sid,” she said, raising her voice?

“Nothing.  Nothing at all.  You seemed to be in a mood for being accurate.  I thought you would appreciate the correction.”

“Well I don’t.  It is what they did not whether there were exactly 300 or not.  Even when the Persians started killing them off they were referred to as the 300.  That was a magnificent time: from the Persian war all the way through the Peloponnesian war and beyond.  It wasn’t until Alexander full of scotch and water set about outdoing Philip that everything was ruined, well not totally  ruined.  A lot was saved.  We have quite a lot from that period and we can learn from it.  We ought to be willing to learn.”

She got a beautifully sad expression on her face.  Sidney couldn’t resist sitting down and putting his arm around her.  She nestled her head in his shoulder and cried.   When she finally subsided, he whispered, “want to go to bed?”

She bit his ear gently and whispered back, “I thought you’d never ask.”

“Isn’t that a cliché, dear,” he asked?

She socked him on the shoulder -- but not too hard.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ridgeback Being and Time

Some time ago when I was
Feeling weak with a damaged
Arm and my Ridgeback
Girls were willful and strong
I thought about a time
When one of them would age
And be gone and I might . . .

I wasn’t sure what I might,
But thought small – a smaller
Ridgeback existence – learning
Small ones existed in Oregon.
I told my son who in a burst of
Essential sonness promised
To drive however far I wished.

Since then my girls have grown
More considerate and I have
Strengthened my arm and my son
Has lost his Jeep and now drives
An old Toyota with a weak battery
Or bad alternator or something else
Electrical and stays mostly at home.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama's speech approaches Heideggerian authenticy

ONE WORLD NOW left the following comment in response to the post "Applying Heidegger to America":

“The Obama Presidency is going in the direction of Rightness, I think. . “.

Perhaps “One World Now” is also responding to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.  When I read this speech ( ) it seemed that Obama was moving in the direction of Heideggerian authenticity insofar as his presidency was concerned – at least insofar as foreign affairs were concerned.  Consider some of the things he said in his speech:
“The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.
“America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide, and restrict the most dangerous weapons.”
“. . . modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.”
“the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest - because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”
“The soldier's courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms.”
“More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.”
“I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.”
“But I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen UN and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali - we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.”
“But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.
“The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur; systematic rape in Congo; or repression in Burma - there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.”
“In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation's development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists - a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.
“I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests - nor the world's -are served by the denial of human aspirations.” 
“In light of the Cultural Revolution's horrors, Nixon's meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable - and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul's engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan's efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.”
COMMENT:  Insofar as Foreign Affairs are concerned and considering Heidegger’s thesis: where is the realm of Presidential “authenticity”?  Answering this question involves a good deal of subjectivity, but I recognized most of what Obama said in the speeches of past presidents and statesmen.  He was walking in their footsteps.  He maintained a consistency with what I believe is best in America.  Some place back there in our history, our traditions, is what we might consider Heideggerian authenticity, and from my perspective, and insofar as foreign affairs are concerned, Obama has tapped into it, used it for inspiration, and used it for direction.
            Is what Obama said consistent with what the Nobel Peace Prize committee expected?  That is an interesting question.  We might speculate and suggest “perhaps not.”  It feels as though the Nobel committee was attempting to influence Obama in a European direction – a direction that is less American-Just-War oriented and more “Let’s put all our eggs in the diplomatic basket.”  Obama hasn’t eschewed diplomacy.  In fact he implies that he will continue to explore diplomatic solutions in North Korea and Iran.
            No doubt some are going to take comfort in differences between what Obama has said and what Bush did during his administration, but I don’t see anything that significantly diverges.  Consider the “torture business.”  That was proposed during a time of panic when the Pakistani ISI was telling us that Al Qaeda had suitcase nukes.  If they ever had these nukes, they have gone beyond their “use by” dates; so giving up “torture” is no longer a large issue in my opinion.  Also, I believe that “torture” is not something that could be “authenticated” in our tradition.  However, if in the future there is an individual who knows about some impending 9/11-type attack, a Jack Bauer-type may very well torture the information out of the guy and be willing to take the punishment for it later on.  We are officially against torture, and individual soldiers and officials are forbidden to engage in it, but there are no means for preventing it – only punishing it after the fact.