Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why we love the dogs we do

I’ve been reading Why We Love the Dogs We Do, and How to find the Dog that Matches your personality, by Stanley Coren. Coren is a scientist who believes he has come up with a new way of classifying dogs in terms of their personalities. He utilizes existing human-personality tests and then relates them to his new categories of dogs. He then gives the reader a test. After testing his own personality, he ends up with 8 markers. Coren tells us that we need at least two markers for a given dog-catory to be happy with a dog from that category. That was fortunate for me because I had two markers in the “protective dog” category. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is in that category and I am very happy with that breed.

Coren says that if you are happy with one dog from a given category then you are likely to be happy with all the dogs in that category. Let me check that: In looking at his “Protective Dog” category I discovered that I have at one time or another “considered” 14 of the 19. That is I considered getting these dogs at one time or another, and did some research about the breeds. This category contains the Akita, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, Briard, Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chow Chow, German Wirehaired Pointer, Giant Schnauzer, Gordon Setter, Komondor, Kuvasz, Puli, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Schnauzer (Standard), Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Weimaraner. Coren writes about this category, “Any dog in this group would make a pretty good watchdog, and the larger ones make good guard dogs.”

My test showed two other categories with two checks, “Independent Dogs” and “Steady” Dogs.

“Independent Dogs”: Afghan Hound, Airedale Terrier, Alaskan Malamute, American Foxhound, American Water Spaniel, Black and Tan Coonhound, Borzoi, Chinese Shar Pei, Dalmatian, German Shorthaired Pointer, Greyhound, Harrier, Irish Setter, Irish Water Spaniel, Norwegian Elkhound, Otter hound, Pointer, Saluki, Samoyed and the Siberian Husky.” I actually had a German Shorthaired Pointer, and am familiar with my son’s Airedales. Coren says about this category, “the animals in this group may . . . be a bit pushy or dominant around other dogs. These are dogs with their own minds, who will often appear to be more interested in their own plans than in those of their human masters. This independent and headstrong nature often makes them difficult to train. Their behavior is spontaneous and also quite variable, which means that sometimes they may go to great extremes to please you, while at other times they may act as if you don’t exist. All of these dogs are quite active and are happiest outdoors; some may not thrive in the city, especially if they must be indoors most of the time. Most dogs in this group, especially the Airedale, Greyhound, and Irish Setter, have a strong sense of playfulness.”

In regard to the “Independent Dogs,” while I did have a German Shorthaired Pointer, but wouldn’t want another one. Which means there is only one dog on the list I am considering, the Airedale -- to a large extent because of my son’s campaigning. Frankly, I have for a long time been rating dogs in terms of being able to handle themselves down at the river where we sometimes encounter coyotes and feral dogs. I had not been considering personality compatibility. Rather, I had been assuming I could get along with any dog I raised from a pup. Fortunately, should I ever get an Airedale, I have two checks in the “Independent Dog” category which is the same number that I have in the “Protective Dog” category.

There is a third category that my test showed two marks against: “Steady Dogs.” This category contains the Basset Hound, Beagle, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bloodhound, Bouvier des Flandres, Bulldog, Clumber Spaniel, Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhound, Mastiff, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, and Scottish Deerhound.” I have never seriously considered getting any dog on that list.

Perhaps if I took the longer tests “Steady Dogs” would drop off and “Clever Dogs” have more of an emphasis. I had only one check against that category and Coren advises against getting a dog from a category with only one check, but I once had a Poodle, and we got along fine. The category contains, “Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collie, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Maremma Sheepdog, Papillon, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Poodle (Toy, Miniature, and Standard) and the Shetland Sheepdog.” Beyond once having a Poodle (although I wouldn’t own another, primarily because of coat care), I have been seriously considering the Belgian Malinois. Coren says there is absolutely no difference in personality in any of the Belgian Shepherd breeds, but I have read different things recently, including differences described by Coren in one of his later books. He subsequently decided there was a difference between the Malinois and the other Belgian Shepherds. Whether he considered that difference great enough to move it from “Clever Dogs” to “Protective Dogs,” is doubtful. Some of these dogs are also very protective, but apparently Coren and others think their cleverness affects their personality interaction with humans more than their protectiveness, and I have no reason to doubt that.

I have considered a three dogs on the “Friendly Dog” list, the Brittany, the Vizsla and the Labrador Retriever. But I only considered the Brittany and the Lab in the days when I was bird-hunting. I considered the Vizsla more recently as a dog that might do well at the river as long as there was a larger Rhodesian Ridgeback nearby, but many of the Vizsla breeders I discussed this matter with seemed paranoid that I might subject one of their breed to such a risk and I took that to mean that the breed, or at least a high percentage of them, probably weren’t up to it. The Friendly Dog list contains the Bearded Collie, Bichon Frise, Border Terrier, Brittany, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Collie, Curly-Coated Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Keeshond, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, Portuguese Water Dog, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Vizsla, and Welsh Springer Spaniel.”

I have strongly considered one dog on the “Self-Assured Dog” list, the Irish Terrier. This list contains the Affenpinscher, Australian Terrier, Basenji, Brussels Griffon, Cairn Terrier, Irish Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Schnauzer, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Schipperke, Scottish Terrier, Shih Tzu, Silky Terrier, Smooth Fox Terrier, Welsh Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and Yorkshire Terrier.” In fact I have not removed the Irish Terrier from my list as a possible dog for my down-sizing days, should I ever enter them. The Irish Terrier’s difficulty in getting along with other dogs is a bit off putting. There is a saying about them that there are only two types of dogs they will tolerate: the submissive, and the dead.


I have attempted to evaluate Coren’s theories in terms of my own experience, and while I don’t recognize myself in much of what he says, I have settled upon the Rhodesian Ridgeback; which would suggest that his test of me wasn’t wrong. But some place he says that “Familiarity breeds contentment” when it comes to dogs. Once you get used to a particular breed, then you are going to tend to like that breed from then on – and be content with it. In one of his questionnaires he asked dog owners which breeds they had owned and which breeds they would not own again. I would have responded with the German Shorthaired Pointer and the Miniature Poodle, but I loved both of those dogs and my decision not to get another involves the high energy of the GSP; which wouldn’t suit my semi-sedentary retirement, and the coat-care of the Poodle. Also, a miniature wouldn’t do well at the river. A standard might, but I really don’t like the Poodle coat.

Moving ahead now, I have said the Airedale is on my list, but their coats are just as difficult to care for as the Poodle coat. My son is telling me it’s a piece of cage and he can show me how to do it, or I can have it done, but . . .

I notice that the Boxer is in the same category as the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Coren has said that if you like one dog on a list you will probably like the rest. Well, maybe. I do notice that I like more dogs on the Protective Dog list than on any of his other lists; so between the Boxer and the Airedale, the Boxer might better fit my lifestyle; however . . . I have gotten onto a Boxer discussion group and everything thus far has been about Boxer’s dying or getting sick. Boxer health is a big concern. I would rather have a large Ridgeback that I have to boost into the back seat of my Jeep than a sick Boxer that can hop up there by himself. I would even rather have a shaggy Airedale. . . maybe.

Did I learn anything from Coren’s book? Yes, I’d say so. His psychological classification of dogs is interesting and makes more sense than the AKC classifications. In many respects, however, he doesn’t add to what I’ve read in other books, in Tortora’s The Right Dog for You, for example. For example, these books will tell you whether a dog expresses “high energy” inside, suggesting that if you aren’t up to that, you had better pick a different breed. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is listed in Tortora’s book as exhibiting “Low indoor activity,” but “very high outdoor activity” which suits my lifestyle very well. Inside I do a lot of reading and writing, but outside we go on long walks or down to the river to chase rabbits and coyotes. The Airedale, on the other hand, while having “very high outdoor activity”; which would show him suitable for river outings, has “very high indoor activity” which might interfere with my study habits; although my son says they eventually calm down. The Boxer is a step down from the Airedale in energy, showing “High” activity levels both inside and outside – according to Tortora.

In another book, Why Does My Dog Act That Way? A Complete Guide to Your Dog’s personality, Coren rates the Airedale “Moderately High” in energy and the Boxer “Moderately Low.” The Ridgeback is also rated “Moderately Low” in energy.

I don’t have to make a decision today about which dog or dogs to get next, but it frequently occurs to me that the safest approach to “downsizings” I could make would be to go from two Ridgebacks down to one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Communism and the U.S. in South-East Asia

This morning, Taeus responded to as follows:

Dear Lawrence!

Thank you for your well argued answer.
You say:

"You haven’t really provided any arguments. What is the evidence for your assertions? What have you read that supports your assertions?"

My arguments for claiming that war crimes were commited in Vietnam can be found in the book "Crimes Against Silence", which was published by people involoved in the IWCT. And there are many other investigations coming to the same conclusion.

Perhaps not everything the Americans did was a crime in the technical sense, but it sure was in a moral sense, as all bombing of civilians is, including the bombing of Hiroshima. Besides most military experts are of the oppinion that bombing of civilians has very little effect.

But it would be interseting to hear your analysis of the war against the Vietnamese starting with the French invation in the middle of the 19th century.

Take it from there and try to convince me that the French cause was a just one and that the Americans take over of the torture of the Vietnames people was a just cause.

Best regards



Do you have the book you referenced? I just checked and it is no longer in print. It does have some used copies. It is ranked 4,933,151 in popularity. The last printing was in 1970 before the Vietnam War was over. Since this was just one endeavor engaged in by the “Left” there was a lot of triumphalism, left hands patting each other on the back, and a dropping of the whole thing. If the IWCT was serious, and this wasn’t just another Leftist propaganda ploy, why didn’t they continue?

America has traditionally been opposed to Colonialism. Its one adventure was the Philippines, and there were many reasons why we took over the Philippines back then. If we didn’t do it, then Germany would, or some other country, and it never set well with us, we who were a former colony to now have a colony of our own; so it wasn’t long before we set a schedule for Philippine independence. Later, when Wilson was part of the dividing up of much of the world after World War One (see MacMillan’s Paris 1919, and Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace), he opposed the French and British as they tried to regain the rights to their empires. He couldn’t end their colonialism, but he could make them agree, in areas being addressed after the war, to time tables for independence. Of course South East Asia and Algeria were not on the table back then. After World War II, Britain was too broke to want to try very hard to hang onto their empire. And France was coming off its Vichy period and was not very effective in managing its empire. Roosevelt did not agree to any splitting up of the world. That hadn’t worked. He wanted an organization controlled by the “Four Policeman,” the U.S., Britain, the USSR and China. He believed that if these four enforced their will, world peace would ensue. That was the beginning of the U.N. which never worked as Roosevelt intended. Roosevelt never liked De Gaulle, because, among other things, the latter wanted to keep the French Empire.

Later, when Eisenhower was engaged in fighting the Cold War, France was having difficulty controlling its South East Asian Colony. No one of any credence I am aware of seriously argues that Eisenhower wanted to take over from France in order to gain their South East Asian colony. Eisenhower had one concern, that this area didn’t fall under Communist control. It was Eisenhower who used the analogy of falling dominoes. The early part of the Cold War was one in which Communism was on the advance. There were supposed to be free elections in Eastern Europe, but the USSR put an end to that. Nation after nation was forcibly converted to Stalinism, with its attendant mock trials and purges and subsequent adaptation of that Totalitarian form of government. No one had the insight back then to understand that Communism was eventually going to fail; so the American “Cold Warriors” took their war very seriously.

Those who want to persist in opposing America’s efforts during the Cold War are faced with having to argue that a Totalitarian form of government was better than the Liberal Democracy favored by the U.S. and the West. Did we support a lot of nations who didn’t have Liberal Democracies? Yes. Back then, if they opposed Communism that was good enough for the time being. We saw things in terms of “National Interest” and practiced a kind of Realpolitik: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The goal was always to preserve Liberal Democracy and to oppose totalitarian Soviet Socialism. We had no master plan during the Cold War. We were not engaged in the spreading of Liberal Democracy – something the Neocons attempted recently. It was good enough if we could “contain” the advance of Communism.

I know of no serious arguments that suggest we had other motives. Yes, there have been some recent books claiming that the advance of Liberal Democracy is a sort of Imperialism, that it is really the advance of the American way of life. In a sense this is true. We do want to advance Liberal Democracy. We believe as the Russian Sharansky argued that Liberal Democracies do not go to war against each other. A world in which all nations were free and had liberal laws and protection of individual rights similar to what we have in our Bill of Rights, would probably be a peaceful world.

As we know, Liberal Democracy was opposed by two forms of Totalitarianism in the 20th Century, Fascism and Communism. Liberal Democracy won out over those two totalitarian systems. Now there is a new form of totalitarianism that seeks to overthrow Liberal Democracy. This new form is variously called Radical Islam, Islamism, and Militant Islam. They make no secret of their opposition to Liberal Democracy. When they won an election in Algeria, they said that as soon as they took charge Allah would be running the country so there would be no further need of elections. Islamism isn’t above using Democracy (as Hitler did in his day) to gain power, but after power is attained then Democracy is swept away and a Totalitarian form of government takes its place.

Had we won in South East Asia we would have done what we did in Japan and South Korea. Are they our colonies? No, of course not. They are Liberal Democracies. They practice a form of government which is patterned after the American. Now, look at the great victory the Left facilitated in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. A book I recently purchased is Pol Pot, Anatomy of a Nightmare. On the back is written, “Why did it happen? How did an idealistic dream of justice and prosperity mutate into one of humanity’s worst nightmares?” Those are legitimate questions reflecting disillusionment. The Left, much of it, did believe, idealistically, that what the Communists wanted in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam was “Justice and prosperity.” But after the U.S. was defeated, reality set in. Justice and prosperity did not follow America’s defeat. The pattern of purges and interrogations and political imprisonment, in other words a Totalitarian, Stalinist form of Socialism occurred. More Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were killed during the Communist governments that succeeded America’s defeat, than were killed by Americans during the war. So if someone wants to say, “hey look at all the killing the U.S. did during the war,” to be fair they must also say, “but of course the Communists did even more killing, especially after the war.”

Now as to using the term “moral standard,” and then criticizing America for violating it, that is legitimate only if you identify that standard, show that America has agreed to it, and then show how America violated it. I don’t think you can do that. The Left is in a very weak position when it attempts this sort of argument because it has very fuzzy nebulous moral standards they have always had the utmost difficulty explaining. Conservatives, and indeed the “Western Civilization” was based on Christian standards of morality. Secularism has made huge inroads, and many scholars think Christianity should no longer be invoked (see Marcel Gauchet’s The Disenchantment of the World, A Political History of Religion), but Christianity is in the framework, in the beginning of Liberal Democracy, so it might have validity for some of us if it could be shown that we had violated Christian moral standards “as a policy” during the Vietnam War. There are always crimes committed by individuals and small groups in any military operation. We have military laws to punish soldiers who violate these laws, so it won’t do to say that a soldier who engaged in some crime that was punished by the military nevertheless represented official military policy.

I note, by the way that you still haven’t advanced any arguments. Instead you are in effect saying, “I am not going to tell you what my arguments are, but you go ahead and advance some arguments against my arguments (the one’s I’m not going to tell you about) and I’ll tell you whether they convince me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Re: Legitimacy of Russell's International War Crimes Tribunal

I just received the following comment from “Taeus” in regard to my note,

Dear Lawrence!

You say:

"America’s strategy, coming to the aid of an ally and resisting Communist aggression was not criminal."

This is such a naiv point of view considering US:s real motives and their bombings of civilians, use napalm, agent orange, cluster bombs, concentration camps, etc.

The only reason Diem could stay in power as long as he did was that he was backed up by the US. If free elections had been held in SV in 1954 appr. 80% of the population would have voted for reunion, even Eisenhover admitted this.

The facts are so overwhelming regarding the US:s war crimes and other crimes that it doesn't matter who was elected for the tribunal. Anyone with a sense of justice would have come to the same conclusion as the Tribunal did.

Best regards, Taeus


You haven’t really provided any arguments. What is the evidence for your assertions? What have you read that supports your assertions?

Let me guess about your arguments and then respond to my guesses as though you had produced real arguments. (Feel free to develop arguments more to your liking.) Here is the first one: (a) Bombing of "civilians, use of napalm, agent orange, cluster bombs, concentration camps, etc." is criminal. (b) The U.S. used napalm, agent orange, cluster bombs, concentration camps, etc. (c) Therefore the U.S. behavior was criminal.

Let is consider your first assumption. Harming civilians in order to sap the will of the enemy has long beenne of the devices of war, continuing into modern times. The British used it in the Boer War. The Germans used it in their bombing raids on London and then that favor was returned during the bombing raids of Germany. We also used it against the Japanese in order to damage their will to continue the war. These approaches to war had not been declared “criminal” by the U.S. courts or any Western Court that I am familiar with at the time we employed these weapons during the Vietnam War. It is not our current policy to target civilians, but it was common practice up to and including the Vietnam War. Therefore Assumption “A” does not hold up. You may say that in your opinion and in the opinion of Russell, such bombing “ought” to have been illegal and criminal, but in fact it did not have that legal status.

Your second argument seems to assume that since Diem did not hold free elections, his government was not legitimate and he should have turned it over to the Communists, who would have been elected. So we might have to phrase that argument roughly as follows: (a) No government is legitimate unless it is based upon free elections. (b) Diem's government was not based upon free elections. (c) Therefore Diem's government was not legitimate.

If we trace the history of the U.S. there was a time when no government other than our own was based upon free elections, and yet we had to conduct foreign policy, and we did. We determined what was in our best interest, in our “National Interest” and sought that. We have never made it a prerequisite that a government must be based upon free elections else we will not make a treaty with it or support it in time of crisis. To do that would violate one of the original UN stipulations that no nation should interfere in the internal workings of another nation. In other words, nations can have whatever sort of government they like and no outside nation can say them nay. Pakistan, for example, has in modern times often been ruled by military coup and yet we had no trouble dealing with the coup leader, General Musharraf. We might urge general elections, and hope a nation has them, but we cannot declare a government illegal, or refuse to have dealings with it because it does not meet our governmental standards. Which is to say that your assumption “A” does not hold up, and your argument fails.

Sweeping statements like “The facts are so overwhelming regarding the US's war crimes and other crimes that it doesn't matter who was elected for the tribunal. Anyone with a sense of justice would have come to the same conclusion as the Tribunal did,” do not even approach the realm of logical argumentation. In general this statement commits the fallacy called “begging the question,” or “petition principia.” You have “assumed” your “conclusion” in this assertion of yours; so as an argument, it fails.

I have discussed the matter of U.S. Cold War strategy in others of my notes and don’t want to belabor the matter again here. The Cold War was conducted between the Democratic West, led by the U.S., and the Communist nations. Both sides took this war seriously. Each side tried to win this war. Several methods of conflict occurred. The Communist forces sought to win over new nations and engaged in whatever means might accomplish that end. The U.S. sought to “hold the line” by protecting nations that claimed to be on our side. We were not a Neocon nation back then. We didn’t insist that a nation be Democratically led before we would support it, and even today that is not a requirement, else we would not be willing to defend Saudi Arabia and other non-democratic Middle Eastern states.

Our strategy was called “Containment” and it originated during the Truman administration based on a “long Telegram” by George F. Kennan (sent February 22, 1946). This strategy was subsequently put into book form and published as American Diplomacy in 1951. This comprised our Cold War strategy from its inception to its eventual success as evidenced by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Many propagandist ploys were carried out by Soviet sympathizers during the Cold War. Soviet sympathizes came in many forms. There were (a) out and out agents, (b) sympathizers who actively worked for Soviet Socialist causes, and (c) Socialists who hated the U.S. and its anti-communist war but didn’t like everything that occurred in the Soviet Union. Those in this last category supported the Soviet Socialist cause as the lesser of two evils. Now it would take reading the writings of the people in the subject International War Crimes Tribunal to see exactly whether they favored (a), (b) or (c), but I would be surprised if anyone on this tribunal wanted the U.S. to win the Cold War.


I should add here that while the experts I’ve read agree with the strategy of containment, they typically don’t believe that the “tactics” of the Vietnam were correct. Bevin Alexander, for example, discusses “lessons learned” about the poor tactics used in Vietnam (see, for example, his The Future of Warfare). Many of them say that in retrospect, we didn’t even need to fight that war, and probably shouldn’t have. The “Long Telegram” strategy and Acheson’s firming up of it didn’t intend that we would fight against “every” advance of Communism. Neither he nor Truman thought we could afford it. Acheson, if I recall correctly, didn’t even want to fight in Korea. But at the time of the Vietnam war, the common view was that Communism would ultimately defeat Liberal Democracy in the world; so we needed to keep those dominoes from falling as long as possible. In retrospect, we now know that the Communist position wasn’t as strong as we thought, but at that time, and I lived through those times, it did seem, through much of that period, that the Communists would win.

Now, as to all those Anti-Americans talking endlessly about America’s criminality, one can’t help but notice (as I pointed out in regard to Chomsky) that they don’t criticize the Soviet Union and other Communist nations in the same way. They are all about American crimes, but say very little about the crimes committed, for example, during the Stalinist era. And when is the last time anyone followed up the Anti-American charges during the Vietnam War with the fact that things got much, much worse after America pulled out. In terms of body count, many more were killed, after America left than during the actual Vietnam War. Once America pulled out and Communist regimes took over, they had their typical Stalinist-type purges and killed huge numbers. You will hear Western Leftists decrying American attempts to prop up weak South Vietnam regimes. You will hear them waxing nostalgically about their glory Anti-War days back in the 60s, but do any of them feel guilt for what happened afterwards? Do any of them decry Pol Pot, for example, and consider the evidence that if the U.S. people had gotten behind the U.S. anti-Communist efforts in South-East Asia Pol Pot would never have occurred? No, no, you will never hear Leftists say that. Instead they will blame the U.S. for forcing Pol Pot to engage in Stalinist-type purges.

Notice that Taeus worries about free elections during the Diem regime, but does he worry about them after Ho took over South Vietnam? Doe he worry about them after Pol Pot took over Cambodia? I’ve never noticed any Leftist worrying about such things.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Canine cognizance and aggresiveness

Further on the subject of Ridgeback and canine intelligence in general, I did find a report entitled “The Cognitive Dog” that referenced the work of several scientists. But it didn’t get into the matter of canine IQ.

One thing seemed clear, all dogs have the 5 characteristics Kenth Svartberg referred to. So if you have Ridgebacks with softened temperaments, as I do, it doesn’t indicate a trend. I could theoretically go back to the same breeder and to the same parents of my dogs and (theoretically) pick out pups that aren’t soft. What Svartberg found was that the five characteristics, being common with canis lupus, are evolutionarily stable. But individual dogs used in shows do lose some of their breed-characteristic-edge. If you have ever seen a show, you will notice that they are all asked, as much as possible, to behave in the same manner. My Trooper was supposed to compete in shows, but he refused to have anything to do with that sort of behavior. We obligated ourselves to show Trooper if he took to it, but he never did. He behaved like a Van Rooyan Lion Dog, not a Westminster Show Dog. Bad Trooper.

In the power-point presentation above, there was a description of what to look for in a puppy. In regard to aggression, one of the tests (by Volhard) is called “Restraint”: “The tester crouches down and gently rolls the pup on its back and holds it down with light pressure with one hand for 30 seconds.”

Test Purpose: “Degree of dominance or submissive tendency, and ease of handling in difficult situations. Fight or Flight Drive.”

The ratings are as follows:

1. 1 Struggled fiercely, flailed, bit (1)

2. Struggled fiercely, flailed (2)

3. ( Settled, struggled, settled with some eye contact (3)

4. ( Struggled then settled (4)

5. ( No struggle, no eye contact (5)

6. ( No struggle, straining to avoid eye contact (6)

The Volhards have written several books, and perhaps some recommendations appear in their books, but here there are no recommendations, just 6 ratings pertaining to “restraint.” This test was never performed on my girls, but knowing their personalities, I suspect they would be 4 and 5. Ginger has always made eye contact; so I’d give her a 4, but Sage has difficulty making eye contact; so I’d give her a 5.

The Volhards have 11 categories and I am only mentioning one here, but if I were interested, next time, in a less “softened” Ridgeback, I might try to get a 3. To get a 1 or a 2 seems rather more of a challenge than I would want, but ones and twos apparently exist in all breeds. Perhaps they don’t exist in every litter, but they will be represented in some litters. And bear in mind that there are 10 other categories to consider, not just “restraint.”

As far as I know, no one has proposed a method for measuring breed intelligence. The breeds were developed, that is some secondary characteristics were developed, and given dogs do well or ill at these characteristics. This is well known. Not every Golden Retriever, for example, can be a seeing-eye dog, and not every German Shepherd can be a police dog. In regard to dogs used as Police Dogs, several breeds have been used. I understand that the Malinois is currently the breed of choice, but in Japan at one time, the Airedale was used. If the Airedale is no longer used, it may have more to do with its size and the nuisance of its fur than of capability.

To put this another way, applying Svartberg’s data, there is a range in each breed that goes from very aggressive to very sociable. I happen to have two Ridgebacks that are more toward the social end of the Ridgeback spectrum. There will be dogs of other breeds, even the Golden Retriever and Irish Setter which will tend more toward the aggressive end of their spectra – more aggressive than my girls despite their being “Rhodesian Ridgebacks.” If aggressiveness isn’t a characteristic that distinguishes the breeds, what does distinguish them? The secondary characteristics, characteristics that are not evolutionarily stable like herding sheep retrieving ducks, baying raccoons, or treeing lions.

Sharpness and Schutzhund training


I’m reminded that the Germans rated dogs in terms of “sharpness.”  “Sharpness is a dog's constant readiness to react in a hostile manner to all real or imagined threats and stimuli. As trainers, when you analyze this statement, you'll quickly realize that too much sharpness is as undesirable as too little is. An "ideally sharp" dog is one that is far quicker to recognize and react to a REAL threat than one that may have too much or too little sharpness. In the Doberman, the medium ranges of sharpness are those most conductive to successful training results.”  (From )  This doesn’t mean that a Dobermann, for example, would, attack a person, but it means that it would be easier to get a Dobermann to do that, and to excel at Schutzhund training than it would be with a dog that hadn’t much “sharpness.”  Other breeds with suitably high “sharpness” ratings (or more likely to have individuals with suitably high sharpness ratings) were the Rottweiler, the German Shepherd, the Belgian Shepherds (and not that Appendix 19 has the Malinois rated number 1 but the Turveran is  rated 13 and the Groenendael 24, but in some places the Belgian shepherds are, or at least were, treated as one breed.


I know the Beauceron and Belgian Shepherds are put through Schutzhund training.  There is a breeder a few miles away from me who raises Beaucerons and Malinois as working dogs.  She prepares them for Schutzhund training.  Wikipedia lists the breeds most commonly given Schutzhund training as “German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers, Bouvier des Flandres, Dutch Shepherd Dogs, American Bulldogs, Boxers, and the like.” 


Here is the last with the Appendix One ratings where applicable: German Shepherds (17), Belgian Malinois (1), Rottweilers (9), Dobermans (27), Giant Schnauzers (8), Bouvier des Flandres (25), Dutch Shepherd Dogs, American Bulldogs, Boxers (15).   Repeating once again that Appendix 1 rates the Labrador Retriever as number 6 in aggressiveness, it would be safe to say that whatever Kenth Svartberg and his team means by “aggressiveness,” it is not the same thing the Germans mean by “sharpness.”


In regard to American Staffs succeeding at Schutzhund training, I found the following: which has it that, “The Amstaff has been known to participate in Schutzhund as a protection breed and has obtained quite impressive results.”     


When I was looking for a dog in the 50-55 pound range that could handle itself against feral dogs and coyotes (which we sometimes encounter on our walks), I briefly considered the American Staffordshire.  There is a breeder listed as being nearby and she had a web site, but she never responded to my query.   And then I chickened out because of the prospect of scaring the neighbors anymore than I already do with my Ridgebacks.    


By the way, my current thinking is to get a female Working Airedale as my second dog (thinking ahead to the time when I lose one of my present girls).  The size would be right and getting a female from a “Working Airedale” breeder (and there is one in Northern California) would enable me to avoid the Svartberg Show-dog syndrome.  I am still planning to get a male Ridgeback from the Oregon breeder that breeds small (75-pound) males.   And of course these plans are subject to change.  I was at the river two days ago and Ginger was chasing Sage.  Sage was paying more attention to Ginger than to me and ran right into me.  That was 85-pounds of running Rhodesian Ridgeback.  I turned so that she got the back of my right leg; so no joints were wrenched and I had no noticeable pain later on, but if one plans to grow older, the prospect of continuing such treatment from one’s dogs loses its appeal.   Do that too much, ye Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and I may be so enfeebled that I shall have to opt for something tiny like a Standard Manchester next time





Rating the Ridgeback

Someone sent me the above. It does show a correlation between “merit” and loss of breed functionality, but I don’t see anything in it that would justify the Telegraph reporters writing “The worst affected breeds were smooth collies, once a herding dog, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, which were used for hunting even dangerous game.”

In terms of rating the dogs against each other, I suppose one would have to refer to Appendix A on page 19, but the comparisons are based upon the tests described earlier. Of the four categories, I assume that under “Playfulness” one is the most playful and 31 the least. Under “Curiosity/Fearlessness” I assume that one is the most curious and fearless and 31 the least curious and most fearful. Under “Sociability” I assume that 1 is the most Sociable and 31 the least. Under Aggressive I assume that 1 is the most aggressive and 31 the least. If I am right in interpreting this appendix, the Ridgeback comes off poorly in 3 of the 4 categories.

The Ridgeback is ranked 29 in playfulness, 27 in Curiosity/Fearlessness, 25 in Sociability, and 10 in aggressiveness.

I have doubts about the methodology, partly because it reminds me of some tests we were all being encouraged to take years ago when I had Trooper, and Trooper’s ideas on all those subjects were different from those of the people who created the tests. He was no good at lure coursing for example (and as an indication) because he examined the lure and saw that it wasn’t anything worth chasing. From then on he refused to run. He would not be impressed with noises, but he might go after someone dressed up and behaving aggressively.

My own test to test the test is to see where certain breeds come out on the aggressiveness ranking. First came the Belgian Malinois (a bit of a surprise, but not much. They have the rep). 2nd comes the breed I would expect to be first, the American Staffordshire Terrier. 3rd is the Parson Russell Terrier (I heard they were feisty, but don’t know much about them). 4th is the Great Swiss Mountain Dog (no opinion about them). 5th is the Australian Shepherd (no opinion). But 6th is the Labrador Retriever. Tilt! Ding, ding, ding. This test is showing the Lab more aggressive than the Rottweiler (9), the Doberman (27), and the German Shepherd (17). Perhaps, I thought, I am reading the rankings backwards. Perhaps 1 means the least aggressive, but if so you have to deal with the fact that the pit bull is number 2. No, no, no. There is something wrong with this test.

Or, perhaps they just have some weirdly behave dogs in Sweden.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ridgebacks becoming stupid? Not exactly.

I have been very interested in the temperament of Ridgebacks, and indeed of several other breeds; so I tried to find out more about the Stockholm study referred to in ( ) The final sentence of the Telegraph article indicating that Ridgebacks were among the worst affected (meaning, I suppose, most stupid) was especially provocative in that my past concerns were about “softening of temperament” not loss of intelligence. I have seen no sign of the latter.

The first article I ran across put the Telegraph article in doubt:

“We were tickled to read recent story in the Daily Telegraph citing a Swedish study which, the paper claims: found strong evidence that breeding for appearance has led to a decline in intelligence [in dogs]. Intrigued, The Local set about getting in touch with the study’s author, Kenth Svartberg, who, according to the Telegraph, was affiliated with Stockholm University. But Svartberg wasn’t listed on the school’s personnel roster, although an employee in the biology department told us he had authored a study about dogs back in 2006.

Finally getting in contact with Svartberg, we learned that he no longer works at Stockholm University, but instead operates a dog training business. He confirmed that the study cited by the Telegraph was published several years ago. What’s more, he was a bit hot under the collar at the way his research had been portrayed. “The study had nothing to do with intelligence in dogs, per se,” he told The Local.

He claimed the paper had “misrepresented” his findings and suspects it did so in order to contribute to an ongoing debate in the UK about the breeding of so-called “hand-bag” dogs.”

There really was such a study. In fact there were many studies. Here is a site that lists recent studies:

If you turn to page 53 you will find Svartberg’s references:

Svartberg, K., 2002. Shyness–boldness predicts performance in working dogs. Appl. Anim. Behav.

Svartberg, K., Forkman, B., 2002. Personality traits in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris).

Here is an abstract of the study “Shyness-boldness predicts performance in working dogs”:


This study investigates if there are relationships between personality and performance of dogs (Canis familiaris) in working dog trials. Data from 2655 dogs of the two breeds German Shepherd dog (GSD) and Belgian Tervuren (BT) were used. The breeds were chosen because of indications of differences in personality between these breeds, and because both breeds are commonly trained for working dog trials. All dogs were tested in a personality test between 12 and 18 months of age. Using a factor analysis, five factors were extracted: “Playfulness”, “Curiosity/Fearlessness”, “Chase-proneness”, “Sociability”, and “Aggressiveness”. Further analyses showed that these factors, with the exception of Aggressiveness, were all related to one higher-order factor, which was interpreted as a shyness–boldness dimension. Because of the risk of confounding variables, the influence of the owners’ previous experience was tested. This showed that owner experience was related to performance, as well as to the shyness–boldness score. Therefore, only data from dogs with inexperienced owners were used in the later analyses. According to their success in working dog trials, the dogs could be categorised as low, middle, or high performing. The results show that the shyness–boldness score is related to the level of performance: high-performing dogs have higher scores (i.e. are bolder) compared to low-performing dogs. This difference was significant in Belgian Tervurens of both sexes, and in female German Shepherds. In general, German Shepherds scored higher than Belgian Tervurens, and males scored higher than females. However, in well-performing dogs there were no breed or sex differences. This indicates a threshold effect; to reach high levels in working dog trials the dog, independent of breed or sex, should have a certain level of boldness. These results imply that a lower proportion of dogs of shyer breeds are able to reach higher performance levels, compared to dogs of breeds that in general score higher on the shyness–boldness axis. In German Shepherds, a relationship was also found between personality and age of success; bolder dogs reached success at a younger age. There were no differences in Boldness score between dogs succeeding in different types of working dog trials (tracking, searching, delivering messages, handler protection), suggesting that the personality dimension predisposes trainability in general. The results might be applied to the selection of breeding dogs in working breeds and in selecting suitable working and service dogs. A test like the one used in this study can give a description of an individual dog’s personality, which also can help matching the dog with adequate training.

Here is an abstract of the study “Personality traits in the domestic dog (Canis Familiaris):


The domestic dog (Canis familiaris) has been subjected to a huge range of selection pressures during domestication that has resulted in a considerable diversity in morphology and behaviour. This, together with the many uses the dog is put to in our society, makes the dog an interesting model for studies of animal personality. However, only a few attempts have been done to study individual differences in dogs. In this study, behavioural data from 15,329 dogs of 164 different breeds were used to investigate the existence of personality traits in dogs. The data were collected at a personality test that tested the dogs’ reactions to strangers, “fleeing” prey-like objects, and several potential fear- and aggression-eliciting stimuli. Factor analyses revealed the existence of five narrow traits: “Playfulness”, “Curiosity/Fearlessness”, “Chase-proneness”, “Sociability” and “Aggressiveness”. Higher-order factor analyses showed that all factors except “Aggressiveness” were related to each other, creating a broad factor that influences behaviour in a range of situations. Both narrow and broad factors were found in a dataset including data from a large number of breeds, as well as within eight of Fédération Cynologique Internationale’s (FCI’s) 10 breed groups. This indicates that the personality dimensions found in the study are general for the dog as a species. The finding of a major behavioural dimension in different groups of dog breeds, together with comparable results previously found for wolves (Canis lupus), suggests that the dimension is evolutionarily stable and has survived the varied selection pressures encountered during domestication. The broad factor is comparable to the shyness–boldness axis previously found in both humans and animals, and to human “supertraits” (a combination of Extraversion and Neuroticism). The results of this study can be used to describe and compare individual dogs, as well as breeds. This, in turn, can be used in applications like selection of service dogs and breeding animals, as well as predicting behaviour problems in pet dogs.


Thus far I have not been able to find the Kenth Svartberg reference that might be construed as suggesting by a malignant reporter, that the Ridgeback breed is becoming stupid. Svartberg says that his study had “nothing to do with intelligence in dogs, per se.” Still, his studies, based on the abstracts do seem to bear upon canine behavior and temperament are therefore interesting. Unfortunately, I cannot get past the “Abstract” level into the reports themselves because I do not have the proper credentials. Just having adequate “intelligence” isn’t sufficient justification for reading these materials.

It would seem safe to say that by breeding for looks, breeders have inadvertently lessoned the ability of these breeds to do their original jobs. In the case of Ridgebacks, most of us wouldn’t care if our Ridgebacks are no longer any good at hunting lions, but along with lion-hunting capability is a certain boldness and courageousness that we tend to assume is still there, even if we can’t see it. We Ridgeback owners have discussed the matter of whether our seemingly docile and friendly Ridgebacks would rise to the occasion if our lives ever depended upon it. After reading what I have posted and some other things I didn’t post, I am still not sure. I have been out in semi-dangerous places enough to know that one of my Ridgebacks, Sage, actually will rise to the occasion. My other Ridgeback, Ginger is still in doubt.

But note the abstract comment that the major behavioral characteristics previously found in Canis Lupus (except for aggressiveness) seem to be “evolutionary stable” in canis familiaris. Which may mean that breeding for looks isn’t going to get rid of defensiveness in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. And if our Ridgeback is more sociable than we would like, perhaps its “sociability” is merely on the same “sociability/aggressiveness” spectrum that has always existed in the breed.

Hold on, someone one might disagree, if there are still Ridgebacks at the “aggressive” end of the spectrum, how come we don’t hear about them? Perhaps we haven’t been paying enough attention. Those nations who want to ban Rhodesian Ridgebacks along with Pitbulls may have seen a few of them. And it may just be that trainers like Cesar Milan have “trained” owners of such dogs to be “calm and assertive” enough to keep these more-aggressive Ridgebacks from functioning in an unacceptable manner.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Al-Qaeda has the plague?

This article about segments of Al Qaeda contracting the bubonic plague appeared in the British newspaper, The Sun. Which immediately caused me to speculate about how surviving members of Al Qaeda would receive this information. Most of their setbacks can be explained away by blaming them on the CIA and the Great Satan, but the plague? Well, I suppose they could say that the CIA dropped plague-infected rats in their vicinity, and for a moment I thought that might have been a clever thing for the CIA to have done. But if the CIA knew where they were, they would surely bomb them rather than send them rats, so that doesn’t seem like a plausible explanation. On the other hand, perhaps the gullible young Islamists who need some explanation other than Allah is displeased with the, would buy it.

Mexico, sending its drug violence our way?

The above AP article by Traci Carl describes the disruption presently occurring in Mexico as a result of their drug wars. Vicente Fox, when he was elected, promised to deal with the drug problem there, and he arrested the drug king-pins, but all that did was create space for a lot of new king-pin wannabes. Filipe Calderon succeeded Fox in 2006 and sought to do better, but he hasn’t. Things have gotten worse.

Retiring CIA chief Michael Hayden told reporters on Friday that “Mexico could rank alongside Iran as a challenge for Obama – perhaps a greater problem than Iraq.” That’s an interesting assessment. Obama will have to manage the drawing down of the troops in Iraq, but perhaps Hayden doesn’t consider that a very serious problem, so what problem can Mexico’s drug wars cause?

Traci Carl quotes Manuel Infante, a Mexican architect to say, “There is a wave of barbarity that is heading toward the U.S.”


At various times, people I’ve debated have suggested that Mexicans posed as great a problem to America’s equilibrium as Muslims do to France and other places in Europe. I have never agreed with that assessment, and the Mexico drug problem doesn’t change anything. The Islamic problem in Europe is caused by Islamic Radical fanaticism. God is telling them to go out and kill and maim infidels. That is not what is going on in Mexico. Great numbers of people are attempting to make as much money as possible by selling illegal drugs. That’s a very different matter.

No one has proposed a good solution for the Radical Islamists. Some Social Scientists have engaged in wishful thinking: perhaps as they grow older they will give up making bombs and will mellow like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and engage in teach at universities in less violent activities like teaching in universities.

But in the case of the drug dealers, there is a solution, a rather simple one and it has worked before (in regard to alcohol): declare drugs legal. Sell them over the counter in liquor stores along with booze, and the drug dealers will be put out of business as quickly as the bootleggers were, and you would free up have the jail cells in the nation. People have argued that drugs are a more serious problem than booze and therefore should never be declared legal, but I’m not convinced of that. What I have read suggests to me that drugs, if they were declared legal, would be no more harmful than alcohol is. Anything you can say about drugs can be said about alcohol. And if you know of some drug that harms the body more than alcohol then add in cigarettes. Most alcoholics also smoke and cigarettes are still legal.

Every objection I’ve heard could be handled by economic controls: Make the less harmful drugs readily available, suitably taxed of course. And then levy heavier taxes on the more dangerous drugs. The rationale for heavy taxes would be that the state will now have to clean up drug users’ messes; so they should pay for that service up front in taxes. Haven’t we done that with cigarette taxes? Follow that with the same sort of Draconian penalties that have been applied to drunk drivers. I’ll grant that drug use will cause problems, but they will be the same sorts of problems presently being caused by alcohol use. But look about you. When is the last time you heard of a Bootlegger Turf War?

In the meantime, all you Americans who live close to the Mexican borders, get yourself several Rottweilers, German Shepherds, or the like, and then get yourself a gun or two and hope for the best. The police don’t have this one under control.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Allied War Crimes against Iran in 1941?

Bevin Alexander wrote a book entitled How Hitler Could have Won World War II, the Fatal Errors that Led to Nazi Defeat. In this book Alexander doesn’t engage in what Niall Ferguson would call a “counterfactual,” at least not as far as I’ve read, but he does touch on key moments and events that resulted in Hitler’s ultimate defeat. Perhaps one such event was the extension of the American draft in August of 1941. The draft extension was approved by a vote of 203-202. Alexander puts this in a positive light saying that “Narrow as the vote was, it demonstrated American determination to rearm and defend itself.” Perhaps it indicated that, but what was the common American view of the war in August 1941? “Americans in general were gleeful that the world’s two worst dictatorships were tearing at each other’s vitals and hoped they would fight to mutual exhaustion.” [Alexander, p. 100]. Another reason would be the strong tendency in the U.S. toward “isolationism.” The reason which ought to be of most concern to us, however, is America’s short-sightedness. We didn’t really understand what was at stake. It was one thing to hope that our two greatest potential enemies would exhaust themselves against each other, but quite another to believe we needn’t prepare to defend ourselves. Surely when we look at the lessons of World War II, this is an important one for us to learn. We need to remain ready to defend ourselves, and we weren’t ready in August of 1941.

Roosevelt made the decision to help the USSR against Nazi Germany because, “President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill . . . were terrified that Hitler would win and the democracies would be faced with the combined resources of Europe and the Soviet Union.” [ibid, p. 100]

While the U.S. wasn’t in the war yet in August of 1941, Roosevelt agreed to extend aid to Soviet Russia but Russia and Britain were going to have to figure out how to get it to them. Here is what they did: “On August 25, Britain and the Soviet Union occupied Iran and ensured an all-weather, unopposed supply line to Russia. Soviet forces from the north and British from the south took over the country, required Shah Reza Pahlevi to abdicate in favor of his son, and mobilized forced labor to build a highway between Shatt al Arab and the Caspian Sea to expedite American exports.”

How could the Anti-Americans blame America for this aggression against Iran? I suppose they could say that unless America had agreed to aid the Soviet Union there would have been no need to occupy Iran, therefore America is ultimately guilty of this war crime. Some Anti-Americans would be sure to go back and discover that no American had objected to what the British and Russians did in Iran; which would be another reason for blaming America.

On the other hand, I don’t recall running across this bit of information before and while this could have merely been a defect in my studies, I wonder if the Anti-Americans haven’t given America a pass on this particular set of war crimes -- after all, occupying Iran was for the greater good of Russian State Socialism which to many American Anti-Americans was of paramount importance.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Indistict Impressions, a short story

Indistinct Impressions (a short story)


“Mr. Olson, Mr. Olson,” the doctor said, gently shaking the old man’s shoulder. “Can you hear me?”

Mr. Olson opened his eyes and looked about the room. “Ow,” he said, reaching toward the back of his head and then noticing the IV hooked to his arm. “What’s that in me for? Did I lose any blood?”

“I’m doctor Kent. How do you feel?”

Mr. Olson propped himself up on his elbows and shook his head from left to right. “I feel like I have a headache.” He shook his head again with more agitation and looked about the room. “Where’s Rusty?”

“Calm yourself, Mr. Olson. Rusty is just fine. Your son Tom has her. He took her home with him for the night.”

Mr. Olson leaned back on his pillow. “But how is she?”

Just then a man in a suit walked into the room. “How is he doctor?”

“He is lucid. I guess you can ask your questions, but don’t tire him out.”

“What questions?”

“My name is detective Winter. How much do you remember?”

“I remember some damn fool kid came rushing at us out of the bushes. Must have been on drugs. What kind of a mugger would go after a man walking a dog?”

Detective Winter smiled. “You’re probably right about the drugs. We’ve had a rash of muggings in the area these past three months and my captain is leaning hard on us to catch this guy. As many people as he’s mugged you’d think we’d have a good idea about what he looks like, but he is all rage and violence and tends to put his victims into shock. They don’t remember too much. How about you?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say he put me into shock. He ran into us hard and I went flying. I guess I hit my head. The last thing I remember seeing was Rusty going for him.”

“Yeah, and she got him. We got his DNA off of her teeth. That’s the first time we’ve seen his blood. But did you get a good look at him?”

“Depends on what you mean by good. Where’s my glasses, by the way?”

Detective Winter shrugged. “If they weren’t with your stuff, I don’t know where they are.”

“Where’s my stuff,” Olson said, swinging his legs out from under the covers and onto the floor?

“Hang on, hang on,” Winter said, making calming motions with his hands. “I’ll look.”

He walked over to the closet and rummaged in the pockets of Olson’s clothing. “I don’t see any glasses.”

“How about my knapsack?”

Winter brought it to Olson, who looked through it. “Dang.”

“We can look for them tomorrow, but you never said whether you got a good look at the mugger.”

“I saw him all right. I’d recognize him again. Shouldn’t be any confusion, what with his left hand all torn up.”

“Ah, that was my next question. How badly was he hurt?”

“I only have an indistinct impression about that. I saw Rusty go for the guy’s hand. He had something in his left hand – maybe it was a knife but I don’t think so. She got him good and then everything went black.”

“Just the hand?”

“That’s all I saw when I went down, but she didn’t look like she was going to be done with him any time soon.”

“Must be quite a feisty dog, that Rusty. What is she, a terrier of some sort?”

Mr. Olson was offended. “She’s an Airedale. Ain’t no dog tougher than an Airedale. I don’t care what anyone says.”

Winter smiled. “You won’t get an argument from me, but she didn’t look so tough when I saw her.”

“What do you mean,” Olson asked in alarm? “I thought the doctor said she was all right.”

“Yes, yes. She’s fine. Your son was here for awhile, but they wouldn’t let Rusty in the room with you, and she was making a fuss; so he thought he’d better take her home with him. But she’s fine.”

“Good,” Olson said and got all the way out of bed.

“I’m not sure you ought to be doing that,” Winter said.

“Why, are you going to arrest me?”

“You’re kind of on the feisty side yourself, aren’t you? How old are you, anyway, about 80?”

“Something like that,” Olson said, pulling the IV out of his arm and walking over to the closet for his clothes.

Just then Doctor Kent came back into the room. “No, no, no,” he said. “You must get back into bed, Mr. Olson. You can leave in the morning if there are no complications.”

“Well, this here detective isn’t arresting me, and I’m pretty sure you can’t; so I guess I’ll just go home.”

Doctor Kent shook his head in frustration. “Elderly people are more fragile than they realize. You could have some nerve damage from your fall.”

“If I do,” Olson said, stepping into his trousers, “I’ll come back.”


Mr. Olson found an exit and walked out into the night. He looked about him and nothing looked familiar. He walked out to the street and walked to the nearest corner and squinted at the street sign. “Compost,” he said out loud. “At least I think that’s what it says.”

He fished in his knapsack until he found his cell phone and called his son, but got no answer. “Dang,” he said. His sense of direction had always been poor, but he never had any trouble walking. Lots of people his age had arthritis, but if he had it, it hadn’t affected his ability to walk; so he started walking. Maybe he’d eventually come to a street sign he recognized.

After walking for thirty minutes or so he entered a dark unlighted area. The street seemed to have a lot of pot holes and the sidewalk was uneven, as though earthquakes over the years had buckled it. He began thinking that he should have stayed in the hospital. He looked back the way he’d come. Maybe he should go back. Just then he heard something move in the shadows and out came a big dog wagging its tail. “My, my,” Olson said in surprise as he squinted at the dog. “You are a Rhodesian Ridgeback unless I miss my guess.”

He held his hand out for the dog to sniff him, but instead the dog licked his hand and put his head there to be petted. “My goodness,” Olson said, “You are a nice boy, aren’t you. You remind me of an old Ridgeback I had about 20 years ago. His name was Trooper.”

At the words, the Ridgeback showed excitement and he tried to jump up on Olson.

“Hold on. Hold on, boy. You’ll knock me over and I’ve had enough of being knocked over for one night. So you’re name is Trooper as well,” Olson smiled down at him. “Gad. I wish I could see you better, but you sure do look like him.” Then looking at him speculatively, he said, “you wouldn’t happen to know the way home, would you? My home I mean, not yours.”

At that, Trooper began leading off down the dark street to a park. He then started through the park. “This is starting to look familiar,” Olson said, hurrying after the dog.

Half way through the park a big man loomed out from behind a tree. “Well, well, looky what we have here. The old man I never got to finish mugging because of his nasty little dog. I don’t see no little dog now, old man; so get ready for your beating.”

“I brought a big dog this time,” Olson said, backing away and looking over at Trooper.

“You can’t fool me. You don’t have no dog.”

“Right over there,” Olson said, pointing.

“Why there’s nothing . . . oh my god,” the man said stumbling backward and then running back into the bushes with Trooper chasing him.

Olson stood transfixed, listening to the man’s screams that went on and on so long that Olson put his hands over his ears. At last Olson felt Trooper nudging him with his nose. “Good boy,” Olson said, gingerly patting Trooper on the head and looking apprehensively back toward the bushes. “You saved me from a beating for sure.”

Trooper led off again, and eventually Olson recognized where he was.


At about 08:30, Olson woke and made himself a pot of coffee and then called his son. “Hey, dad,” Tom said, “I was just getting ready to call you. I called the hospital and they said you checked yourself out. I suppose you want Rusty back. I’ll be there in ten minutes or so.”

“Great,” Olson said, setting down the phone.

A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Olson opened it to see Detective Winter. “Ah, Detective Winter,” Olson said. “Come in. Want some coffee?”

“Yeah, don’t mind if I do. Where’s Rusty?”

“My son is bringing her over. Should be here any time.”

“I now believe what you said about Airedales being tough. We found your mugger.”

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that, Detective,” Olson said, but before he could say anything further, his son opened the door and Rusty flew into Olson’s arms, wagging her tail furiously and licking his face as fast as she could.

“Okay, okay, Rusty. I’m glad to see you too.”

“How big is she,” Winter asked after Olson finally got her settled on the floor, “forty, forty-five pounds?”

“Something like that,” Olson said, but she didn’t do as much damage to the mugger as I assumed.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you saw him. She ripped his throat up pretty badly. I don’t understand how he could have gotten as far as he did in that condition. Must have held his hand on his throat.”

“I did see him, and he was fine. He was planning on mugging me again. It wasn’t Rusty,” Olson said. “I was walking home last night, and . . .”

“You walked home?” Winter and his son asked in unison?

“Well, yeah; since no one would give me a ride. And this dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback starts walking along beside me. I was kind of lost, not having my glasses; so I walked along with him. He led me through the park and half way through, the mugger shows up again. Bad night for him. Trooper chased him down and must have finished him off. I wondered about that.”

“Did you say, Trooper, Dad?”

“Well, yeah. Now don’t look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking. MyTrooper died 20 years ago. I wasn’t hallucinating. I know it wasn’t my Trooper, but I was talking to it and mentioned Trooper’s name. He responded to that; so I just called him Trooper from then on.”

Olson’s son and Detective Winter looked at each other doubtfully. “What happened to the dog, Dad?”

“Beats me. I looked around at one point, and it was gone, but by that time I knew where I was. It probably turned around and went home.”

“Just one thing wrong with that story, Mr. Olson.”

“What’s that, Detective?”

“If this Trooper of yours did what that Mugger had done to him, the ground would have shown some evidence of paw prints, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yeah, so?”

“There weren’t any. He looked like he had a tough time dying, but I didn’t see any signs of a dog being there.”

“That’s got to be wrong,” Olson said. “Maybe he wasn’t dead when Trooper got done with him. Maybe he got himself someplace else.”

Winter shook his head and looked down at Rusty curled up in a ball at Olson’s feet, and shook his head again.

Hofstadter and Chomsky - playfulness and piety

Richard Hofstadter, on page 32 of Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, writes of the extremes intellectuals may be subject to: “At one end of the scale, an excess of playfulness may lead to triviality, to the dissipation of intellectual energies on mere technique, to dilettantism, to the failure of creative effort. At the other, an excess of piety leads to rigidity, to fanaticism, to messianism, to ways of life which may be morally mean or morally magnificent but which in either case are not the ways of intellect.”

Hofstadter thinks “in most intellectuals each of these characteristics is qualified and held in check by the other.”

On page 33 he writes, “It is a part of the intellectual’s tragedy that the things he most values about himself and his work are quite unlike those society values in him. Society values him because he can in fact be used for a variety of purposes, from popular entertainment to the design of weapons. But it can hardly understand so well those aspects of his temperament which I have designated as essential to his intellectualism. His playfulness, in its various manifestations, is likely to seem to most men a perverse luxury; in the United States the play of the mind is perhaps the only form of play that is not looked upon with the most tender indulgence. His piety is likely to seem nettlesome, if not actually dangerous. And neither quality is considered to contribute very much to the practical business of life.”

I would not be willing to use the word “tragedy” about myself, but Hofstadter’s description could fit my experience in Aerospace. I was hired for the very mental capacities Hofstadter describes, but was able to “play” at it in order to free up time to “play” in the more serious realms I was interested in. I have always been able to learn things very quickly and work even more quickly; which invariably meant I was the most effective in any group I was in; so who would notice me using my excess time to study philosophy or history? And even if some boss did notice, he would just heap more work on me in an attempt to fill up my “free time” which would cause me to work even more quickly and efficiently. I’m not sure this is quite the sort of “playfulness” Hofstadter had in mind. I was often bored by the work they had me do, but there were always my studies, and if I couldn’t study, I would write. Is writing “play”? And I don’t mean by the above that I was irresponsible in my “work.” I had it all in the equipoise Hofstadter says most of us achieve.

On the other hand, I don’t quite agree with Chomsky who seems to imply to Peck (pages 35-36) that people by and large are equal in their intellectuality. It is just that they are using their intellects on sports rather than Foreign Affairs. Many of the people Chomsky encountered had good analytical skills. “It just happens that they exercise them in analyzing what the New England Patriots ought to do next Sunday instead of questions that really matter for human life, their own included.”

And, when we read Chomsky, we must look for the conspiracy theory at the end of any of his own pious analyses: “One of the functions that things like professional sports play in our society and others is to offer an area to deflect people’s attention from things that matter, so that they people in power can do what matters without public interference.”


Years ago I read Julian Benda’s The Betrayal of the Intellectuals. Although I can’t recall his arguments vividly, he believed intellectuals had a responsibility to hold political leaders to account. Intellectuals had mental equipment enabling them to know what was right, as opposed to lesser people who did not. So intellectuals were cowardly if the didn’t fulfill their responsibilities. Benda wouldn’t believe that Chomsky’s gas station attendant might be just as acute as Chomsky himself. He set the bar higher than Chomsky, but I did get the impression that he thought that intellectuals would all reach the same views. After all there was only one truth; so intellectuals would all find it and all that remained was for them to fulfill their responsibilities. If they didn’t do that, they were traitors.

I read Benda after reading Goebbel’s Diaries, and recall wondering why Goebbels didn’t find the same truth Benda was describing. I concluded that Benda’s mythical realm of truth must be so far above any human capacity that no intellectual could ever reach it. Intellectuals like Goebbels, Heidegger and Ezra Pound could become attracted to Fascism; while others like Lenin and a host of others were (and still are) attracted to Communism.

Hofstadter would argue that Goebbels, Hitler, Marx and Lenin were at the “pious” end of the spectrum. They had lost their ability or willingness to “play.” Playfulness was beneath them, and it seems to be beneath Chomsky too. Their intellectualities are not held in equipoise between playfulness and piety. They are deadly serious.

As to myself, I don’t commit Chomsky’s deadly sin of being fanatically interested in sports. But I often read light fiction and watch “no-brainer” movies. “Ah ha,” Chomsky might say. “But wait,” I would hasten to add. I can only apply myself to a truly boring book such as At War With Asia for a limited time before my mind “goes tilt” and I must let it “play.” Light fiction and movies serve that purpose for me. Writing poetry and fiction also serve at other times. Night before last (Chomsky’s fault) I wrote a short story (entitled “Indistinct Impressions”) after walking the dogs. I often feel embarrassed after writing such things because people who read them or know of them invariably think I ought to “do something with them.”