Friday, October 30, 2009

"Method" in Gadamer, Wittgensetin and Cesar Milan

To expand upon this matter ofmethod and perhaps think aloud about it, I once got into an argument with a graduate student about whether Hans Georg Gadamer had amethod. I asserted that he did. The graduate student asserted that he didnt because of his book Truth and Method. In it, she pointed out, Gadamer rails againstmethod, therefore he could not have one.

She abandoned me before we pursued the matter as far as I would have liked, but what Gadamer was doing was opposing a certain sort ofmethod, any set of principles that were intended to be all-encompassing or utterly prescriptive. Gadamer didnt believe any set of philosophical principles were, ultimately, valid. He was very like Wittgenstein in that. And, I might add, like Cesar Milan as well. But that didnt mean that Gadamer, Wittgenstein and Cesar Milan didnt have a philosophy or method. We can examine what they said and did and discover what they believed in, what they taught, and how they proposed to proceed in regard to any matter they took up.

In Gadamers case, he believed that the approach to truth and understanding had been oversimplified by past philosophies. No one can write something and have it mean precisely what they think it means, because anytext involves both the writer and the reader. When we come to a text as a reader, we come with preconceived ideas and prejudices; so ourunderstanding of what the writer has written might be completely at odds with what the writer intended. That is just an example. He didnt have a method to determine meanings, but he did have amethod (I assert) to show that understanding is far more complicated that had hitherto been believed.

As to Wittgenstein, he simply denied thatphilosophy was a coherent body of writings and insisted that philosophy meantdoing philosophy, that is, thinking and analyzing and drawing or not drawing conclusions depending upon what one found.

And I see Cesar Milan doing something like that. I think Gadamer and Wittgenstein would have approved of Cesar Milan. He explores the problem as he finds it and then proposes a solution. The solution may, in some cases, not work, so he proposes something else. Some dogs, he decides, must be taken back to his pack in order to learn to be dogs in what Cesar believes approximates their natural environment.

Cesar is pragmatic rather than programmatic. He doesnt have a program like Bill and Dick Koehler had. He works toward solving problems. But he does have certain things, part of hismethod, that he seems to almost always do. He takes a dog out on a walk to establish his relationship with the dog. And if a dog wont submit to Cesars solution (red zone dogs), he takes the dog to his pack and lets the pack solve the dogs problems. He emphasizes being apack leader to everyone.

Consider Cesars book,How to Raise the Perfect Dog: Through Puppyhood and Beyond. Surely any book that proposes to do that provides amethod for its accomplishment.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Harsh" and "Gentle" Ridgeback Training

I tend to think that “harsh” treatment may on occasion need to be used. I don’t rule it out. I have some experience with training “harshness” in that Susan’s father’s favorite trainer was Dick Koehler ( ). The last dog Susan took through a Dick Koehler class was Trooper (Dick Koehler died in 1998). As someone recently said, the Ridgeback is a large powerful dog, and a slightly built woman needs to have him or her under tight control if she isn’t to be pulled over. Trooper was trained (by Dick Koehler’s “harsh” methods) such that Susan was able to keep him under perfect control.

His methods worked. I didn’t use them when I was with Trooper; because we were doing different things, but Susan used them. She could put him on a stay unleashed out in front of the library, go in, find the books she wanted and come out again and Trooper wouldn’t have budged one inch. He was utterly obedient to Susan. Furthermore, we discovered that Trooper realized he needed to be gentle with slightly-built females. A young niece took him for a walk and Trooper was very careful with her. In my writing I have mostly described how Trooper was with me, but he was Susan’s dog before he was mine, and he was trained by methods many would describe as “harsh.”

By the time we lost Trooper and got Ginger, not only was Dick Koehler gone, but there seemed to be no good trainers in our area; so Susan hoped to train Ginger herself and get her into agility, but Susan’s health didn’t permit that; so Ginger never received the Koehler training. The “training” of Ginger and Sage was left up to me. I didn’t think the Koehler method was suitable for these girls. I didn’t object to Susan’s putting Trooper through it, but I wasn’t going to put Ginger and Sage through it. I have described the sort of thing I have done with Ginger and Sage. They are obedient in everything I think important. I don’t insist that they do everything as though they were in boot camp on a parade ground. I am no martinet. Lots of things are optional.

I have described Ginger and Sage being on their own at the river as the go off in chase of rabbits, but when they were puppies I was protective of them. Ginger, for example was afraid of a water puddle at the end of the street during a rain; so I picked her up and carried her across. I didn’t make a big deal of it. I just scooped her up and carried her. Someone else might have dragged her across, but I couldn’t do that. I carried her. Did she suffer in later life for that coddling? I have seen no evidence of it.

I once posed the question about whether Ridgebacks were being bred to be softer. Someone might argue that my anecdotal evidence (Ginger and Sage being softer than Trooper) might be accounted for by the different training methods. Trooper was trained under the Dick Koehler (harsh) method; whereas Ginger and Sage were trained by the Lawrence Helm (gentle) method. I wouldn’t rule that out totally. I tend to think “breeding” is the prime ingredient but training may have added to their softness. I have certainly given them no reason to be anything other than “soft.”

And, if I am responsible for some of the “softness” of Ginger and Sage, then so be it. I will be training my next Ridgeback the same way I’ve trained my girls. If I get a Ridgeback from a breeder other than Natalie Carlton next time, and it turns out to be more like the Ridgebacks of old, it won’t be because anything I do.

But I hasten to add that there are any number of training methods; so one should feel free to use a method he or she is comfortable with – something suitable to what is needed. Susan used the Koehler method initially because it was recommended to her by her father, but she came to believe in it and it did work for her. But I take Ginger and Sage for outings where they are permitted to chase rabbits and explore through brush off leash. The Koehler method is of no use to me.

[What does Dick Koehler have to do with Cesar Milan? Nothing directly, but if someone thinks Cesar’s methods are harsh, they would be appalled at Dick Koehler’s methods. Compared to Dick Koehler, Cesar Milan is a wimp.]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Are the Cossacks mercenaries?

The above article, written by Paul Goble, is entitled Cossacks Increasingly see themselves as Moscows Victims, not its Agents. Ill quote a bit from the article and comment below.

. . . Most non-Russians and many Russians . . . think of the Cossacks as little more than a paramilitary force of the Russian state, but many Cossacks have defined themselves as a separate nation and argue that Moscow has oppressed them . . . just as harshly as it has other ethnic communities.

. . . the Russian government has co-opted most of the leadership of Russia’s 13 Cossack hosts . . . [but] . . . the Cossacks share many elements of Russian nationality, including attachment to the Orthodox Church; [so negative] attitudes are typically ignored by the media.

But . . . an increasing number of Cossacks view themselves as victims and are prepared to act as an independent force and . . . the Russian government is increasingly concerned about that possibility, something that could undermine Moscow’s control of the North Caucasus and other parts of the Russian periphery.

One such article, posted online over the weekend [written by Temerev, a Cossack], argues that Soviet oppression of the Cossacks is continuing under the post-Soviet government . . .

At the dawn of the Soviet period, Temerev notes, the communist authorities pursued the physical liquidation of the leaders of the Cossack hosts, many of which fought on the side of the anti-Bolshevik White Russian movement, and of ordinary Cossacks, whose fiercely independent stance put them at odds with Moscow.

These actions, he continues, were in fact “instruments of genocide” intended to eliminate the Cossacks as a people. Now, in post-Soviet Russia, acts of physical violence are no longer needed to achieve that goal: media “brain washing” is sufficient “to cut people off from their native cultural milieu” and make them part of “the culture and traditions of the conquerors.”

Among the mechanisms the occupiers use is the church. Most Cossacks are Orthodox, Temerev notes, but “among the clergy, there are very few Cossacks, and those who are [are] russified – and do not represent any danger” for the Russian government.

The Cossacks need their own Orthodox church in order to block Moscow’s policy of “cultural genocide,” Temerev says. He notes that in July 2009, Greeks in the Don were able to lay the foundation for their own Orthodox church without any particular problem and thus are more likely to survive as a community [than the Cossacks].

[A factor favoring the Cossack cause is that] Moscow wants to portray itself as a democracy and thus is “limited in the means [it can use to suppress] the Cossack national movement.”

[Also, it would be awkward for Moscow] to conduct ‘anti-Cossack’ propaganda without [defining the issues, for if they explained them it would] become obvious [to] Cossacks male and female [that] independent national development [is possible].

Many Cossacks will want to recover the independence that was taken from them and get involved in the struggle for the restoration of the Cossack state. And as a result, almost anything Moscow does do regarding the Cossacks will [draw attention to the issues and have an effect opposite to what Moscow intends].

[Moscow knows] very well that many supporters of the rebirth of a Cossack state link their hopes to the weakening and collapse of the Russian Federation, [so Moscow is striving] to prevent any discussion of Cossack issues at all.

But that lack of any discussion in the central media does not mean that the . . . restoration of Cossack identity [is] not proceeding quickly. . . .


I have had a fondness for the Cossacks ever since I read the Mikhail Sholokhov Don series of novels. Any rating of the premier fighting peoples of the world must included the Cossacks. This brief article makes the use of the Cossacks in Russia seem like the use of the Gurkhas by Britain and the French Foreign Legion by France. I certainly had the impression that the Czar used the Cossacks as mercenaries, but then they went up against the Red Army during the Revolution, and later, during the Second World War, many of them fought on the side of the Germans; so how is it that the Cossacks have lost sight of their distinctiveness? Obviously some havent. The Cossack writer Goble quotes hasnt, but many have. Many have been russified; which is evidence that Communist brain-washing worked.

But now in the era of the Federation, some Cossacks are rethinking their relationship with Moscow. Are they truly as integrated into the Federation as they are encouraged to think, or are they one more element in the Federation that would prefer to retain, or in this case re-obtain a separate nationality. They already are a separate ethnicity but they have been taught to think of themselves as united with the other ethnicities in the Russian Federation. However, as we read recently, the One-hundred percent ethnic Russians think of all other ethnicities as second-class citizens.

If the Cossacks retain any semblance of the identity and self-respect that Mikhail Sholokhov wrote about, I cant see them reconciling themselves to second-class-citizen status.

And if the article is truly indicative of the current state of Cossack thinking, then this is one more case of an old dominant culture (Russia) refusing to accept another culture (the Cossacks) as equal. We have seen the problems this sort of thinking has been causing in Europe. France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain etc., refuse to accept their immigrants as equal, and the immigrants resent it.

Each time I read an article about an ethnic problem in the Russian Federation, I think of Moscow, putting itself forward as a superpower equal to the U.S. and China. I have no objection to Russia being a superpower. But such problems as the one described above causes me to doubt that Russia has their act together. They seem to have too many internal problems to have the freedom and leisure to play a major role on the worlds stage. Show me where Im wrong, oh ye Russians.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Adventures in Ridgeback training

Someone wrote that Cesar Milan’s programs are not useful for a normal dog. I tend to agree with that. I have watched a number of his programs and every program I’ve seen has been about fixing problem dogs. They are all interesting, but my Ridgeback girls aren’t problem dogs and they don’t need to be fixed.

Someone else defended Cesar and referred to a program in which he evaluated pups in terms of temperament. I haven’t seen that particular program, but it doesn’t surprise me. He is very knowledgeable about dogs and I have great respect for him. I did notice that he always takes dogs out on walks as part of his process. I haven’t done that as part of a conscious training or “fixing” procedure, but I have always enjoyed taking dogs for walks.

Many years ago my father-in-law, who had a small horse-ranch, had two somewhat “sharp” dogs. He had gotten Sport from a horse-trainer. Sport looked like a cross between a Rottweiler and some sort of Shepherd. Sport was a no-nonsense farm dog who would guard or do anything else his owner asked him to do. Chip was his son. He and Sport didn’t get along all that well. Neither dog invited a lot of attention from outsiders; although Sport would let Susan pet him. Susan had seen Sport a lot, but this particular incident occurred before I had a relationship with Sport or Chip.

One evening, I asked if I could take them for a walk. My father in law said “sure.” So I got their leashes and off we went. We were no longer in the house where my father-in-law ruled but out in the countryside where these dogs had to pay attention to me. We were outside in a rural area walking along an interesting road with interesting smells. My father in law didn’t do much walking back then; so perhaps these dogs had never been to the places we walked. Their focus was on the smells they encountered and the things they saw; but when we came to a street crossing with cars passing, and I ordered them to stop, they obeyed me.

When I saw Cesar begin many of his “fixing” procedures by taking dogs for walks I thought of Sport and Chip and of how my relationship with them improved as a result of a walk.

I’ve written often about the outings my girls and I take (off leash) at the river. My girls have never needed “fixing” but the walks have been good for them and would probably be good for any dog, problem dog or no.

I have never “trained” my girls. Sage doesn’t know how to “sit.” Susan thinks I have deprived Sage by not training her to sit, but where is she to sit, I ask? Out where we walk, sitting might put her on an ant hill.

Susan loved training and took Trooper to several training classes. But when we retired to San Jacinto the nearest equivalent was an agility training class. Ginger was very good at doing the exercises, but she was too gregarious, too social. She would complete an exercise and then rush off to visit one of the other dogs. The agility trainer suggested Susan take Ginger through an ordinary training class and then come back. But Susan’s health didn’t permit that.

I recall when Sage was young, Ginger ran down a slope and invited Sage to follow her, but Sage was apprehensive and wouldn’t do it. She wanted to, but she was scared; so Ginger ran up and down again and stood down there looking up at Sage. Ginger repeated this 4 or 5 times before Sage got up the nerve to follow. When she finally did, and learned it was easy, she did it over and over in obvious delight. In this situation, Ginger trained Sage.

On another occasion, when Ginger was a bit older but not fully grown, Ginger and Sage dashed on ahead. We were heading through the brush toward the river service road. Usually no one would be on it, but on occasion we would see a bicyclist using it or someone walking a dog. On this occasion Sage came running back toward me, obviously agitated. She dashed a short way toward the river road and then came back urging me to hurry. I hurried on ahead.

Up on the road was Ginger socializing with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and a Boxer. Two dogs she had met before. They were being walked by two little old retired, and very absent minded, school teachers who never seemed to remember us. They watched Ginger dancing around their dogs and wore expressions of bewilderment. I reintroduced myself, apologized and called Ginger to follow me off in a different direction. There was no harm done. The Chessy and the Boxer remembered Ginger even if the school teachers didn’t.

That was the first time Sage encountered the School teachers and their two dogs, and I was interested in seeing that when Sage thought there might be some real danger, she didn’t trust Ginger’s decision but came back looking for me. Did I train Sage to do that? No, but something went on during all our walks at the river that taught Sage something, and when the teachers and their dogs showed up, Sage made the decision to come back looking for me.

If we read the books about the early days of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, we learn that they were bred to think for themselves. They ran off in a pack to look for a lion. They were beyond the call of the hunters and on their own. But some sort of learning process had gone on with each one of them. Perhaps to some extent the older dogs taught the younger. In any case, they knew what to do. They didn’t have to be told to do it by the hunter.

I have something like that in mind when I take a new pup down to the river. I am not “training” it in any conventional way. Our first few trips down there will be on leash but once I am confident that she can find her way back to the Jeep, and I have seen no recent evidence of coyotes or feral dogs, I will let her off leash so she can learn to function on her own.

Eventually we will have many outings at the river where I never say a word. I’ll walk through the little trails in the brush and they will range hither and yon looking for rabbits. If they see some they will give chase; then they will come back and check on me and may walk along near me until they see the next rabbit. Then they will be off again.

This is very different from the “sit, stay, come” world of formal training, but I’d like to think that if Cesar were to one day go with us on one of our river outings, he wouldn’t disapprove of what the girls have become.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

On Liberal-Democratic Government and Education

From an American standpoint, and in reacting against the British Monarchy, we held as an ideal that power would be invested in the people and not in a monarch, or a central government. That remains a presupposition for many of us. Government does not own all the power and money and dole it out to thankful citizens. Government has only the power and money that citizens and their representatives vote to give it.

Then too we must be careful with the term Liberal. On this particular matter I consider myself a Liberal. I subscribe to Liberal-Democratic forms of government. But if in someones thinking, the term Liberal has morphed into Socialism; then the original meaning of Liberal has been abandoned.

In regard to the idea of a Liberal-Democratic State promoting positive freedoms, that strikes me as unnecessary in the U.S. We already have those freedoms unless they have been proscribed through the legislative process. This does imply that our government is in the business of negative rather than positive legislation in regard to matters of freedom.

However, we Liberal-Democratic nations have come a long way from the American Rebellion of the 18th century. We have on occasion decided to vote ourselves entitlements. These can be considered positive legislation, but they neednt be. A king could have decided to give his people medical insurance, but in Liberal Democracies we have decided to vote ourselves particular entitlements. We agree to pay for them. The money for it comes from the tax payers. This isnt governmental largesse but the decisions of a majority of tax-payers in these Liberal Democracies. I see nothing wrong with the idea of people voting themselves entitlements -- as long as they can afford to pay for them.

We might also consider that the experiences of Socialistic forms of government, the extremes seen in both Fascism and Communism, and their formulations for how people should be educated. We agree, most of us, that these systems of education have proved to be failures. And since they failed, why we would want to try these approaches again. Are we smarter now? Have we discovered perfection in thought and deed? I dont think so. Who is smart and clever enough to decide what the people need to know? Here in the U.S., in the manifest absence of such smart and clever people, many of us fall back on the ideas of the American Rebels who believed the people should have the right to do and think whatever they liked as long as . . . and here we introduce negative legislation as required.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Re: British Bibliophiliacs -- destroyed lives

The New York Review of Books has the same eerie
classified personal ads minus the give-and-take.
Depending on my mood, the NYRB ads are funny or
tragic. So many liberated, virile, active
intellectuals who have ninety-nine interests and
two hundred virtues, hiking and cross-country
skiing to their epicene eateries or progressive
rallies, yet who are apparently reading all the
time! So many witty, savvy bon vivants who are
nonetheless incredibly lonely!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eating meat, over-population, and the end of Western and Russian civilizations

In San Jacinto, housing tracts have for some years been replacing dairy farms, but there are several within easy walking distance. My Ridgeback girls are interested in the cows they see there, and the cows in turn are interested in them. These cows have intelligent soulful eyes, and I probably never look in a cow’s eyes without wondering what sort of person could kill such a creature and turn it into hamburger. Of course the cows whom I look at are raised for their milk . . . or are they? I see tags on the ears of young ones from time to time and Imagine lines of people and unsmiling uniformed men ushering those to the left who will be used for work and those to the right who will be sent to the ovens.

We might ask, why are (many of us) so squeamish when we look into a cow’s eyes, but have little difficulty stopping on the way home and buying a couple of hamburgers from Carl’s? If we were to try and invoke Kant, what sort of principle could we create so that right and wrong could be clearly established – if not for everyone, at least for us.

We know from anthropological and historical studies that for all but a tiny sliver of our specie’s history we were quite content to war with each other and kill and eat almost anything that came to hand. So what changed us?

Surely this newfound (relatively) squeamishness regarding the killing and eating of meat is related to our newfound (relatively) desire to end war. Most of those on the Right and Left genuinely wish to end war. On the Right they think the best way to avoid war (if not for everyone, at least for us) is to be prepared so that no nation will wish to attack us. On the left there is hope that some new social structure, perhaps a universal Government can end war. But in the meantime we still war, and we still eat meat.

When did this squeamishness begin? Radical Islam is laying all sorts of bizarre fabrications at the feet of the Jews and the West, but this may be one thing that genuinely belongs there. From the Judaic-Christian tradition, we have learned to desire a time when we will have beaten our spears into ploughshares and our swords into pruning hooks. In that serene future, the lion, we are told, will lie down with the lamb. Surely if the lion will do it, we will as well, and if we lie down with him, will we later rise up again and eat him?

The spear and sword metaphor works well for the ending of war, and yet many Christian theologians would argue that it is God who will create that condition (the cessation of war) and not man. Even so, the desire to do it ourselves, or at least reduce the numbers and severity of wars, is strong.

Perhaps the desire to stop eating meat is becoming strong as well, but we can’t as good stewards of the earth allow animals to breed without control. In our newfound squeamishness we eliminated the wolf from Yosemite so that bison, elk, and deer could have a paradise there. But the horrors of overpopulation and subsequent starvation were shocking to those striving to manage the region. In the end they decided that their solution did more harm than good and let the wolf return. Leave it the way God (or “nature” the atheists would say) intended, for we know that way works.

But what did God intend in regard to humans? Human population was being controlled quite nicely with famines and diseases and war, but we moderns have “improved” our lot. We have nearly eliminated famine -- we have enabled ourselves to produce more food than Thomas Malthus could ever have dreamed of. And if we think about this at all nowadays, we feel guilty because we haven’t eliminated all famine everywhere.

In regard to disease, we have research facilities working diligently to find solutions to all diseases everywhere. Research for the most serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer and AIDS are funded more generously than the lesser diseases, but funding is available for many of them as well. Do we worry about what happens if we eliminate all disease; so that all the people who die off early, especially before bearing a child are saved?

Some people do worry about that. In China, with the worst over-population problem, they practice abortion religiously. In Europe, perhaps the most sophisticated region (in these regards), they have abandoned over-production of children. No government edict forced them to do that, they just did it. They were so successful that we have writers like Bat Ye’or worrying about Muslims pouring into Europe and waxing while the Europeans wane. They fear the loss of sophisticated Western Europe and Russia to the more primitive the less sophisticated Muslims.

Believers in Islam do not seem to have, let it be said, the same squeamishness about war, the eating of meat, and over-population that the more sophisticated civilizations have.

Many of us would argue that Pacifism can never work because as soon as one nation gives up its fighting ability, it creates an overwhelming temptation for some neighbor who has not. Something like that is occurring in Europe and Russia. Not the abandoning of self-defense, but they are not producing enough children to sustain their current populations. To see Muslims coming into these regions with excellent child-producing habits, alarms many in Europe and Russia

It is a knotty problem. Europeans and Russians can’t in good conscience overpopulate their nations like Yosemite once was. They would be content with abstinence. They do not feel the need for the reintroduction of the wolf. They want to go on eliminating disease and famine. But the wolf is at their door anyway. War in a new sense is being waged. Radical Islam is engaged in a new “soft” war where it out-produces European and Russian children and infiltrates them into the old, decadent (the Radical Islamists would say) populations.

In the past we sometimes worried about things that never happened. Malthus is an example of that. But it is never wrong to worry about war. Go back anthropologically as far as the scientists will let you and you will find our species, and our species predecessors engaged in war. It is a modern dream that war can be eliminated, but surely we shouldn’t act as though that dream were a reality. While theories abound, no one has demonstrated beyond doubt that war can be eliminated. In the meantime we must strive to keep the wolf from our particular door. He is still out there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Callused Elbows, removed teeth & cancer

A few days ago, I expressed unhappiness with the treatment I received from my vet. When I picked Ginger up after a supposed routine visit to have her teeth cleaned, a patch of callus removed from an elbow, and her nails clipped, I was informed that a tooth had to be removed. After I got home, I checked Ginger's mouth and could see no evidence of tooth removal. Furthermore, when I read the pages of advice they sent home with me, the callus had been transformed into a "tumor" and the implications of the description were that radiation treatment might be required if they didn't get it all.

After pouring over the material, I concluded that whoever wrote the it had made some mistakes. I voiced my concerns to a few people in discussions, and not everyone agreed with me. One person advised me to go off and look for a new vet if I wasn't happy with this one. I asked whether I had legitimate complaints. If I did then the focus should not be on my unhappiness but on the vet and her techs and helpers. Why should I have to go on a quest to seek a new vet? Why shouldn't the vet correct her problems?

Furthermore, I couldn't know beyond doubt that my assessment was correct. My vet runs her facility with her husband, 2 or 3 other vets, and a passel of techs and helpers. They are all good. They take time with the girls, and answer all my questions, but I have never been happy with her forms and instructions. The instructions are often confusing, sometimes replete with legalese, and usually containing copious amounts of general information I can't imagine a use for.

If I was right in my assessment (and even if I wasn't), the problems I described are inherent in any bureaucracy. Any organization might create a database, forms and procedures to be filled out by underlings, but unless those underlings are willing and able to manage the database, and fill the forms out properly, problems are going to be created with their confused if not unhappy clientele. It is impossible to flee from all bureaucracies.

When I took Ginger back for her one-week check, the tech at the desk said the vets weren't available, but she would record my complaints and questions; which I saw her doing – at least she wrote quite a lot in a little pad.

And then this morning I took Ginger back to have the staple removed from the spot where the callus had been. A busy tech took her in the back where she removed the staple. A few minutes later she handed Ginger back to me. I asked her about my complaints and concerns, but she had never heard of them. The information I had given to the tech a week prior had not made it to the tech who removed Ginger's staple. But this new one said she would check Ginger's chart and get back to me in a few minutes.

A few minutes later the Office Manager, Cheryl, who had once been a Tech, invited me into an examination room where she apologetically told me she would try to answer my questions. So I went through my concerns and complaints one more time. Cheryl called the forms up on a computer and saw that they did indeed say that Ginger's upper right Incisor had been removed, then she looked in Ginger's mouth as I had and verified that it was still there.

In regard to the callus which was described on the invoice as a "mass" and in the instructions as a "tumor," she said that the terms were interchangeable, but when I complained that the alarming terminology was very like the terms I read on a report about Trooper who did have cancer, Cheryl said that the vet looked at all possibilities but determined that the "mass" or "tumor" was indeed a benign callus and nothing to cause alarm.

The tech who filled out the form should have provided a note to that effect. Cheryl said that the tech had done a poor job filling out the form and would be reprimanded.


I have observed over the years that several kinds of conflict exist in the Dog-Human world. For example, breeders often generalize about ignorant and inept owners. You may be a well-informed and competent owner, but some breeders, at least in the on-line discussion groups, will make you prove it – and then not totally believe you.

Some well-informed and competent owners, on the other hand, will generalize about breeders, believing them to be more interested in winning show-ring points than in producing healthy dogs. The vast catalogue of genetic diseases in the various dog breeds gives ample evidence of this serious problem. Owners who attempt to confront show-ring breeders about the use of "famous sires," and genetic disease are often abused unmercifully for their effrontery.

Do vets and techs sometimes generalize about ignorant and inept owners? I have seen hints that some do. And do owners sometimes complain about the information and instructions received from vets and techs? I have nothing more than personal experience in this latter regard. I have waded through the poor writing of more than one tech, but I now content myself with having at long last learned what I needed about Ginger. Do I have confidence that this vet will solve her forms and procedures problems? Definitely not, but I do have confidence that some of those who work for her have learned my name, that my problems and concerns will be discussed at the next staff meeting ,and I have high hopes that the particular forms created for Ginger and Sage in the future will receive a bit more attention than in the past.

Pinch and prong on dark nights and lonely places

As to pinch and prong collars and the like, they strike me as cruel and unusual punishment. On the one hand owners will coddle dogs in a way I never would, and on the other they will take them on walks with portable iron-maidens affixed to their throats.

Out in the real dog world, the world they are most comfortable with, such collars would be counterproductive. If my Ridgeback girls are going to engage in their favorite sport, chasing rabbits (no lions being present in my neighborhood), then pinch or prong collars would be a decided handicap.

Also, on days when rabbits are hiding out and we’re just walking along, if some kids on dirt bikes come rushing at us, and I tell the girls to “stay out of the way,” they do. They had better because chances are I will be too far away to be able to give them anything other than verbal advice.

And if there are feral dogs growling and gnashing their teeth from a nearby copse and I say “leave them alone,” they do. Lest anyone think that they would have left them alone anyway, out of fear, on one occasion after having them “leave them alone” I imagined that what we encountered might not be feral dogs but faithful dogs guarding their master after he had a heart attack; so on the way back I decided to check things out. This time I told the girls, “come on” and marched toward the feral dogs. The girls went out around me with enthusiasm and the largest of the feral dogs ran away. The smaller one stayed to guard a raccoon carcass.

Of course if I am walking the girls in town limits where a leash law is in effect, I have leashes on them. I would anyway because of the cars dashing by without regard for pedestrians whether canine or human. But even then, the leashes aren’t always that useful. Take the other night for example, we were walking down a dark unlighted road adjacent to a racing stable. It was about 23:00. No cars passed us while we were there and not even the horses were stirring. On the way back the girls perked their heads up and I saw someone walking toward us on the other side of the road. Then I saw that he had a dog. The dog seemed just a few feet in front of him but when the dog saw the girls he dashed across the street toward them.

Now I might have turned the girls loose to defend themselves, in fact I should have, but I expected the dog’s owner to take some action. When he didn’t I yelled in stentorian tones that would have made my drill instructor proud, “hey meathead! How about calling off your dog.”

With a bit of a whine in his voice, the fellow yelled back, “it’s not my dog."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

British Bibliophiliacs -- destroyed lives

While debating with myself about whether to resubscribe to the London Review of Books I ran across an interesting article in the current issue – at least the first part of it was interesting. I sought to see if I could reference it online but before finding the correct site ran across This article is entitled, “Have Books Destroyed your life, too?”

It begins with the plight of book lovers: We’d rather be reading than almost anything else, but, the author tells us, bibliophiles, even the erudite sort that subscribe to the London Review of Books, need companionship too. The article quotes some of the ads appearing in the “Personals” section of the LROB. Here are a few:

"My animal passions would satisfy any woman, if only it weren't for the filibustering of this damned colon. And the chafing of these infernal hospital sheets. Write now to M, 83, for ward visiting hours and list of approved solids."

"Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite."

"Love is strange - wait 'til you see my feet."

"I am the literary event of 2007, or at least the most entertaining drunk on my ward."

"Disreputable, mean, ruthless, perverse, hateful wretch. But what do divorce lawyers know?"

"I've divorced better men than you. And worn more expensive shoes than these. So don't think placing this ad is the biggest come-down I've ever had to make. Sensitive F, 34."

"5 September is the anniversary of my divorce. So too are 17 November, 12 January, 8 March and 21 June. Summer is usually much quieter - take advantage of the sunshine and lawyers' vacation periods by dating impatient, money-grubbing F, 39."

"Every time I read these ads I cringe with the knowledge that they are all me. And some are you."

"Today just isn't my day. Neither was yesterday. Tomorrow will be worse. I'm putting all my money on Thursday week. Also my ex-wife's car and my children's tuition fees for 2005-08. Compulsive gambler (M, 53) seeks either love or sound racing tips. Or both. Though, strictly speaking, the latter generally results in the former."

Surely, not, I thought and (never inclined to take anyone else’s word for anything) opened my current copy to the “Personals” sections,” and found

If you can and do, talk for hours and hours about your love of elderflower kombucha, refuse to eat anything containing wheat, endlessly refer to your travels to India at dinner parties, correct other people’s pronunciation at every opportunity and insist on naming your children (all four of them, born in rapid succession) after members of the Bloomsbury Set, are 46, cold and sexually hostile, your either my PhD supervisor or my ex-wife. Good day to you both. The rest of you can try saying something nice to box no. 19/02.”

I soon realized this was a ritual these pansophic readers must engage in before qualifying as someone some other bibliophile might want to meet. Thus, when some lady (under 34) reads and ad --Like every picaro, I’ve suffered the degradations of an apparently infinite exile with resilience, but sometimes I wonder if this bathroom will ever be fully tiled. Rugged bachelor with roughish charm (think Rico Dredd on a penal colony made from grout) seeks literary fangirl to 34. Box no. 18/01” – she must first of all not be put off by the bathroom humor (which would say something in itself). Then she must evaluate his cleverness and decide whether she is intrigued. I didn’t know who Rico Dredd was; so I looked him up in Wikipedia. He appears to be a grotesque cartoon character. Why describing oneself as a Rico Dredd look-alike might attract any female escapes me, but then I am American and not British,

And I still haven’t decided whether to resubscribe to the LROB.

Friday, October 9, 2009

On Trotsky and the Communist Dream

Trotsky: A Biography by Robert Service is scheduled to be released on November 15, 2009. Here is the description of the book:

A reader sent me this review: It was written for the Literary Review by John Gray and entitled “Behind the Myth.” And indeed Gray presents the biography as though it had demythologized or deconstructed Trotsky. Perhaps the most interesting argument, if Gray is to be believed, is that Trotsky was every bit as ruthless as Stalin.

I do object however to Gray’s (and perhaps Service’s) referring to Trotsky as “self-deceived.” That is a rather facile description of the Communistic experience. Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin were true believers. They believed in the Communist utopian dream. And to call Trotsky “self-deceived” is anachronistic. We know in retrospect what he believed was false, but he didn’t know it at the time. He believed in the Communist ideal. To call him “self-deceived” implies that at some level, perhaps at the Freudian “subconscious” level, he knew Communism wasn’t going to work. I don’t believe he knew that. I’m convinced that in the early days Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin all believed the Communistic revolution was going to sweep the world. It was only as time wore on and after the attempts to apply this dream in practice had failed that idealism turned to cynicism.

Trotsky in 1936 wrote The Revolution Betrayed in which he criticized Stalin’s leading. I wouldn’t be surprised if Service’s biography inspired a resurgence of interest in The Revolution Betrayed. I might believe that “Communism” was an experiment that failed and that the failure has been demonstrated beyond all doubt, but Leftists far and wide believe that if the Russians had gotten their Revolution right (they assume it was in their power to do so), the world might be embracing Communism today instead of Liberal Democracy.

I think of Bernadette Dohrn who bemoaned the failure of the Communist Revolution and hoped, and probably still hopes, that there will be another time and that this next time they might get “The Revolution” right. Marxism-Leninism is alive and well in the minds of many Leftists in the U.S. and Europe. One of the things Service’s biography of Trotsky assures us of (it seems to me) is that had Trotsky won out over Stalin, the Russian “Communist experiment” would still have failed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

North Caucasus War and 'War making' in general

The above article was written by Paul Goble and entitled “North Caucasus ‘Comparable to NATO War in Afghanistan, Russian General Says.” I’ll quote from it and make some comments below.

“. . . Even though Moscow is claiming that Russian forces have killed more than 2100 militants in the North Caucasus over the last six years and captured nearly 6300 during the same period, a Russian general says fighting there even now is “comparable to the operation against the Taliban which NATO countries are conducting in Afghanistan.

“Lt. Gen. Yury Netkachev, who earlier commanded the Russian military in the Caucasus, told “Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye” last week that ‘the scope of military actions of the federal forces’ against “the bandits” and the size of the Russian forces involved are roughly comparable to those of NATO in Afghanistan. . .

“Both the Russian forces and the NATO forces number approximately 100,000, both have suffered comparable losses – 250 in the Russian case and 350 in the 350 in NATO’s – but, he continued, that means Russian forces are performing much worse because they face a much smaller enemy – 500 to 700 hard core militants as against to 20-25,000 Taliban.

“Netkachev made these suggestions as part of his argument that Moscow should not have ended the counter-terrorist regime in Chechnya last April, especially since the remaining militants have proved to be inventive in their use of ‘partisan and terrorist methods of struggle with the federal forces.’

“. . . this week, the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) tried to put a positive spin on what Russian forces have achieved. But this MVD media blitz quickly ran into three kinds of trouble. First, other officials, including prosecutors in the Southern Federal District provided different statistics . . .”

“Second, officials, including these same prosecutors, said that crimes involving the use of guns and explosives had actually gone up more than 26 percent over the last year . . .”

“And third, and perhaps most important, the very figures the MVD has provided shows just how much anti-Moscow resistance there has been in the North Caucasus, thus undercutting Vladimir Putin’s frequent claims of victory and raising new questions in the minds of many Russians about whether it is worthwhile to continue the struggle there.”


Just this morning I received a response to one of my notes about dogs & veterinarians; which began with the disclaimer that she wouldn’t comment about my opinions on politics and war making. Apparently she had strayed beyond my notes on dogs, but she didn’t say exactly what she read. In wondering about what she had read, I decided I could use almost any article to exemplify my views on “war making,” this one included. War making is one of the chief characteristics of our species. We have done it for our entire history and anthropologists tell us we did it for all of our prehistory as well. Furthermore, all available evidence suggests that we are going to continue doing it on into the future.

In June I wrote an article on David Fromkin’s The Independence of Nations. . Fromkin, presupposing the widely accepted view that man is a war-making species, didn’t think the chances were good for our survival.

As to why my friend objected to my views on “war making,” I suspect she leans toward pacifism, but hardly anyone leans that way in any logical sense anymore. I wrote in June, “. . . pacifism doesn’t work, but probably only a few benighted souls on the fringe still believe in it. No government holds to pacifism; the views that predominated in Britain, France & the US prior to 1937. Pacifism didn’t stop World War II. It merely made it easier for Germany and Japan to start it. No one is unilaterally disarming today, certainly not Britain, France or the US.”

I could add, “and certainly not Russia,” and yet Russia doesn’t seem comfortable fighting against their clear enemy, Radical Islam. Russian politicians are playing political games with the threat. Is their army more or less effective than the army fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan? Sorry, my Russian friends, but that doesn’t strike me as highly important. Why don’t you instead concentrate on the fact that the Radical Islamic element of Islam is your implacable enemy? It is seeking to destroy you. You have “war making” ability, but it is geared toward the Czar’s army rushing on horseback against Napoleon. The Radical Islamists don’t fight that way, and neither must you. You are not a pacifistic nation and yet what you do is sometimes a “practical pacifism.” You don’t try as hard as you should against this enemy you can’t quite identify or explain. Unfortunately, this enemy has identified you and has his own working definition of your identity.

And it isn’t just you, Russia. We are the same in Europe and the US. There are some who think there is nothing to Radical Islam and that it will just peter out in a few years due to lack of interest, but our specie’s history suggests otherwise. Why should the Radical Islamists quit? Why should they lose interest? They think they are winning.

As to the ongoing interest in pacifism, while it cannot be logically defended, certain gentle souls embrace it (probably they must embrace it) for emotional reasons. Surely, they think, we must know we are embarked on a suicidal course. We must abolish war because it is suicidal. Alas, that is contrary to human nature. We think instead that we must continue to fight wars, because not to do so is suicidal. There is no evidence to support the idea that pacifism could work whether in the unilateral disarmament of an individual nation or the attempted disarmament of the world. But there is ample evidence to support the idea that a well prepared and well defended nation will survive.

Also, those who prepare for war will be far more likely to avoid it than those who do not do so. That too is human nature.