Friday, April 24, 2015

The Armenian Genocide by Turks - 100 Years Ago

This is the day
the Armenian community marks as the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the first genocide of the twentieth century.

As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, and Turkey began to form as a nation, Turks killed off between a million and a million and a half Armenians.

The genocide was accomplished through the organized wholesale killing of able-bodied men and boys, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian desert. During the drive, deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to robbery, rape, and massacre.

The term genocide was first coined, by Raphael Lemkin, not to describe the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis, but the extermination of the Armenians by the Turks.

Fish On Friday

Brown pelicans
hammer a school of fish.

This is an Ocean Sunfish or Mola Mola.
These slow-moving giants weighover a ton, on average, and lay more eggs than any other fish in the world -- up to 300,000,000 at a time.

The Proclaimers :: 'Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’

The Proclaimers
release their 10th studio album on April 27th.  It's entitled 'Let’s Hear It For The Dogs’ (Cooking Vinyl).  An oldy, but a goody, is appended below.

Terrier Work -- the Beginning , Part 5

Classy People and Their Classy Dogs 

Beginning in the 1860s, two phenomenon began to take hold in the UK, both of which were to have long-term ramifications for working terriers. 
The first was the rise of dog shows.

In 1800, there were only 15 designated breeds of dogs, but by 1865 that number had grown to more than 50 and was due to expand a great deal more.

The growth in breeds was partly due to the desire, during the Victorian era, to sort out the natural world. The kind of taxonomic classification that young Darwin had been doing with beetles and birds, others were now doing with fish, mammals, and every manner of domestic stock, including dogs.

In addition, the animal husbandry theories of Robert Bakewell and others had taken hold. Record keeping and the careful selection of sires produced variety and improvement at startling speeds.

With the development of new breeds of sheep, cattle, and chickens came livestock shows to display these wondrous new animals and market their services. A particularly spectacular tup (male sheep) might rent for 1,000 guineas a season, a bull 25 guineas per covered cow.

It was not all about meat, however. Stock shows became great social occasions, and were frequently sponsored by the aristocracy which, quite conveniently, also had the money to buy the best breeding stock for their own programs.

A problem developed, however. While Bakewell’s goal had been to breed better sheep and cattle for greater production and profit, stock show prizes were often awarded on the basis of size alone, regardless of the animal’s value as a meat or milk producer.

Show breeders defended this practice, noting that size alone could be judged honestly and easily in the ring. Feed-to-weight ratios could not be proven, nor could the quality of the meat, the amount of milk produced, or the number of eggs laid.

The size of an animal does not speak to the end product of steaks, milk and eggs, of course — a defect that became readily apparent when production was tracked on the farm. After a brief flurry of interest in the show ring, utility-minded farmers returned to longitudinal "pounds-and-pence" evaluation of animals.

For dogs, the deficiencies of show ring evaluation were not so obvious. Most dogs produced little more than excrement and amusement. For nonworking dogs, the social and economic value of ribbons remained unencumbered by any requirement that the dog produce a product of value or perform a specialized task.

Dogs were occasionally displayed and sold at farm shows in the 1830s and 40s, but the first dedicated dog show was held in Newcastle in 1859, the year Darwin’s Origins of Species was published.

In 1863 the first really big dog show — with more than 1,000 entries — was held in Chelsea, and that same year the first international dog show was held in London.

As noted earlier, this was a period of rapid "speciation" within the world of dogs. The rapid creation — or assertion — of new dog breeds created some confusion, especially when breeds were not yet distinct, or several breeds were lumped into one, or when true breeds were known by several different names.

In 1851, for example, the Yorkshire Terrier was also known as "the Broken-haired Scotch Terrier." It was not until 1870 that the Yorkshire Terrier was firmly designated as both a breed and a breed name. Before then litter mates were often shown in different breed categories — a situation that also occurred with the first prize-winning Jack Russell, which had previously been show as a prize-winning "white Lakeland."

In the manic days of early dog shows, such confusions were common. Some were intentional.

The "Old English Black and Tan Terrier," for example, was simply a ploy by English breeders attempting to appropriate Welsh Terriers (a show ring version of the Fell Terrier). The dog was "correctly" labeled after the Kennel Club intervened, but by then the "Black and Tan" had already been featured in a catalogue compiled by Vero Shaw.

A similar story can be told for the "English White Terrier," also featured by Shaw, which was nothing more that a smooth, white, foxing terrier crossbred with a lap dog.

The dog show world of the late Victorian era quickly outgrew and overwhelmed the much smaller, less flamboyant, world of the working terrier. Dog shows becoming social scenes, with middle class matrons insinuating themselves into Society by purchasing "purebred" puppies. As one Victorian periodical noted, "nobody now who is anybody can afford to be followed about by a mongrel dog."

It is hard to imagine what Reverend John Russell thought of all this.

When the first dog show was held in 1859, Russell was 64 years old. He was 78 when the Kennel Club was formed in 1873 — an old man who, due to poverty and age, had given up his beloved hounds for the last time two years earlier.

Though quite old, the Reverend was famous for his knowledge of hounds and terriers, and his ability, in former years, to ride 12 hours at a stretch. This was the Grand Old Man of Fox Hunting, and everyone knew he had been at it since the beginning.

With terriers front and center in the show ring world, it was a natural for the newly-forming Kennel Club to ask Russell if he would be a founding member. He agreed, no doubt flattered by a position of status, but also because it offered an opportunity to keep up with the dogs.

Russell was a judge at the Crystal Palace dog show in 1874 — one of the first large Kennel Club shows. He admired the look of the dogs, but alarm bells were apparently clanging in his head, for he somewhat humorously described his own dogs as "true terriers ... but differing from the present show dogs as the wild eglantine differs from a garden rose."

Russell never did allow his own terriers to be registered, noting that the qualities selected for in the show ring were of little use in the field.

No matter. The show ring was not interested in working dogs except as a theory untested by experience. The raison d’etre of dog shows was not dogs but people — people who, it turned out, were ready, willing and able to spend significant sums of money chasing ribbons.

By 1883 a magazine entitled The Fox Terrier Chronicle was being produced which covered the terrier elite the way other periodicals covered High Society. By 1886, Charles Cruft — a dog food salesman who never owned a dog himself — had taken over the Allied Terrier Show as a money-making vehicle.

The rapid differentiation between show dogs and working dogs, which the Reverend John Russell had already observed, became more pronounced as time went by. Increasing numbers of people bought terriers, bred terriers, wrote standards, or changed them. Points were given for the set of a dog’s tail, colorful markings on coats, the color of the eye, and even a dog’s "expression." By 1893 Rawdon Lee Briggs was writing in his book, "Modern Dogs," that:

"I have known a man act as a judge of fox terriers who had never bred one in his life, had never seen a fox in front of hounds, had never seen a terrier go to ground ... had not even seen a terrier chase a rabbit."

After almost half a century of formal shows, the author of a manual for dog owners noted that "the sportsman will as a rule have nothing to do with the fancier’s production."

The split between working terriers and show dog was virtually complete.

To order >> American Working Terriers 

Robert Nesta Marley Gets an Israeli Salute

This wonderful acapella version of Bob Marley's
'Could You Be Loved' was made by Israeli musicians in honor of what would have been the late Marley's 70th Birthday, on February 6th.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Stewart Brand on Why Extinction Is Not the Issue

Over at Aeon, the great Stewart Brand has a very nice piece on extinction that parallels what I have written on this blog.

Brand writes:
Many now assume that we are in the midst of a human-caused ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ to rival the one that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. But we’re not. The five historic mass extinctions eliminated 70 per cent or more of all species in a relatively short time. That is not going on now. ‘If all currently threatened species were to go extinct in a few centuries and that rate continued,’ began a recent Nature magazine introduction to a survey of wildlife losses, ‘the sixth mass extinction could come in a couple of centuries or a few millennia.’

The range of dates in that statement reflects profound uncertainty about the current rate of extinction. Estimates vary a hundred-fold – from 0.01 per cent to 1 per cent of species being lost per decade. The phrase ‘all currently threatened species’ comes from the indispensable IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which maintains the Red List of endangered species. Its most recent report shows that of the 1.5 million identified species, and 76,199 studied by IUCN scientists, some 23,214 are deemed threatened with extinction. So, if all of those went extinct in the next few centuries, and the rate of extinction that killed them kept right on for hundreds or thousands of years more, then we might be at the beginning of a human-caused Sixth Mass Extinction.
An all-too-standard case of extinction mislabeling occurred this January on the front page of The New York Times Magazine. ‘Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Shows,’ read the headline. But the article by Carl Zimmer described no such thing. Instead it was a relatively good-news piece pointing out that while much of sea life is in trouble, it is far less so than continental wildlife, and there is time to avoid the mistakes made on land. The article noted that, in the centuries since 1500, some 514 species have gone extinct on land but only 15 in the oceans, and none at all in the past 50 years....

The best summation I have seen of the current situation comes from John C Briggs, biogeographer at the University of South Florida, in a letter to Science magazine last November:
Most extinctions have occurred on oceanic islands or in restricted freshwater locations, with very few occurring on Earth’s continents or in the oceans. The world’s greatest conservation problem is not species extinction, but rather the precarious state of thousands of populations that are the remnants of once widespread and productive species.

...The frightening extinction statistics that we hear are largely an island story, and largely a story of the past, because most island species that were especially vulnerable to extinction are already gone...

But the main news from ocean islands is that new methods have been found to protect the vulnerable endemic species from their worst threat, the invasive predators, thus dramatically lowering the extinction rate for the future....

More than 800 islands worldwide have now been cleansed of their worst extinction threat, with more coming....

Throughout 3.8 billion years of evolution on Earth, the inexorable trend has been toward an ever greater variety of species. With the past two mass extinction events there were soon many more species alive after each catastrophe than there were before it....

Part of the problem is in the way we classify degrees of endangerment. The Red List categories read, in order: extinct; extinct in the wild; critically endangered; endangered; vulnerable (that goes for Atlantic cod); near-threatened; and least concern. ‘Least concern’ is strange language. What it means is ‘doing fine’. It applies to most of the 76,000 species researched by the IUCN, most of the 1.5 million species so far discovered, and most of the estimated 4 million or so species yet to be discovered. In the medical analogy, labelling a healthy species as ‘least concern’ is like labelling every healthy person ‘not dead yet’. It’s true, but what a way to think....

Of the several million species yet to be discovered, there is a reasonable argument that many are very rare and thus extra-vulnerable to extinction, but the common statement that ‘Species are going extinct faster than we can discover them’ does not hold up to scrutiny. According to the paper in Science ‘Can We Name Earth’s Species Before They Go Extinct?’ (2013) by the marine ecologist Mark J Costello at the University of Auckland and colleagues, the rate of documenting new species was 17,500 a year over the past decade, rising above 18,000 a year since 2006. There are ever more professional taxonomists (currently about 47,000) doing the work, along with burgeoning crowds of amateur taxonomists newly enabled by the internet. With a realistic current extinction rate of less than 1 per cent of species per decade and a discovery rate of something like 3 per cent a decade, the authors conclude: ‘the rate of species description greatly outpaces extinction rates’.

Prescription Strength Nature ™

Terrier Work -- the Beginning , Part 4

Jack Russell and the First Working Dogs

It might seem that I have strayed rather far afield in the previous section. What, in God’s name, does the Enclosure Movement, Malthus and Darwin have to do with the rise of working terriers?

Actually, quite a lot.

Mounted fox hunting requires relatively large amounts of open land in the hands of a relatively few number of people.

Squatters and inholders made hunting on common land difficult prior to the Enclosure Movement. Once people had been moved off the land and replaced with sheep and cattle, however, the only real obstacle to the mounted hunts were the stone fences and hedgerows keeping the sheep and cattle in — obstacles that provided excellent sport for competent riders.

Britain’s sheep economy proved less stable than hoped, however. Several busts in the wool business (brought on by cheap imports of wool and cotton from the continent, Australia, and the U.S.) forced marginal sheep ventures to look for other sources of income.

Rapid improvements in shotguns, combined with relatively easy escape from the city by train, created a new form of leisure sport — the driven bird shoot in which partridge and pheasants were raised in large mesh pens and released "into the wild" a few days prior to the arrival of "the guns".

After the birds acclimated themselves for a few days or weeks, beaters and dogs joined the guns in a long line, flushing birds out of cover. Hundreds of birds — at a set price per bird — were shot over the course of a few hours time.

Both the mounted fox hunts and the organized bird shoots required a certain number of working terriers, but for slightly different reasons.

The mounted hunts employed terriermen to find and "earthstop" fox and badger dens so that fox were forced to run long distances when raised by the hounds. If a fox did manage to go to ground, a terrierman was called to bolt the fox from the earth for another chase, or to dig down for dispatch. In some cases, an animal was bagged in order to replenish fox extirpated from other hunt lands.

Terriers were also used to protect pheasants and partridges being raised in netted enclosures for the shoots.

For game keepers, the primary tools for fox eradication were poison and leghold traps (gins), which were fast, efficient and cheap. Secondary tools were low-cost snares, long dogs (lurchers) and long guns used over bait at night. These last methods are still used today in the U.K.

Fox eradication with terrier and spade, while far and away the most humane form of fox control, is slow and inefficient. In addition, because fox rarely lay up in warm weather unless driven to ground by pursuing hounds, terrier work offers a frustratingly short season for a gamekeeper to eradicate fox over a large shooting estate. Gun, snare, traps and poison, however, can be used all year long.

In the early 1800s, the era of bird shoots had not yet begun. Though mounted fox hunting had been spreading across Great Britain for nearly 200 years, the practice was not yet ubiquitous in the British countryside. Terriers used by farmers and mounted hunts alike remained a catch-as-catch can affair.

That was about to change.

At about the time Walter Scott was writing Guy Mannering, a young man by the name of John Russell was attending Exeter College, Oxford.

Looking out the window one day he spied a bitch terrier tied to a passing milkman’s cart. Something about the dog struck Russell’s fancy and he bought the dog based on looks alone. The year is variously given as 1815 or 1819.

When Russell bought the dog he could not have known whether the dog would work but, lucky for him, it did. Russell later claimed this bitch, named Trump, was the model for all the terriers that were to follow.

Russell’s story, and the story of Trump, are subject to more myth than fact. For the moment, it is enough to say that Russell was one of the very first, and certainly one of the most dedicated and longest-riding, fox hunters of the 19th Century.

Though Russell seems to have bought and sold a great number of dogs, he apparently kept a vision of Trump in his mind’s eye — a small, white, wiry-coated terrier with a fierce voice and a strong desire to pursue fox to ground.

It should be remembered that this was an era of free-range poultry. Fox were seen as a threat to sustenance and treated accordingly by farmers. It did not take much effort — or expense — to bait rabbit entrails and chicken heads with strychnine, or set a few foothold traps around a chicken coop, rabbit hutch, or pheasant pen.

In the early 19th Century and through the Victorian Era, traps and poison were so brutally efficient and common that the Reverend Russell spent much of his early years trying to get people to stop killing fox so their populations would increase and he could find a little sport.

Russell was not alone in this endeavor.

In fact, fox protection was so deeply entrenched in the culture of the mounted hunts of the 19th Century that the concept made its way into the English language. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "vulpicide" as "One that kills a fox other than by hunting it with hounds."

The crime of vulpicide was seen as a crime against the aristocracy. God forbid that individual farmers, for the sole purpose of putting food on the table, threaten the weekend pastime of hundreds of wealthy aristocrats!

To order
 >> American Working Terriers 

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    The Dog Trainer

    Dogs are a mirror we like to look at.

    If I came to your house
    and crapped on your rug, peed on your wooden floor, and threw your cell phone into a blender, you would toss me out of the house and call the police.

    And yet, when dogs do this kind of thing, we forgive them and insist on having them in our lives.  


    Here’s the answer:  Dogs make us feel good about ourselves.

    A dog is always glad to see usThey reaffirm that we are special – that we are wise, powerful, loving, important, and worthy of adoration.  

    No matter how ugly, powerless, or socially inept we may be, our dog is always glad to see us, and to tell us we are TOPS.

    In short, dogs make us feel good about ourselves, so we are willing to do quite a lot for them, including forgiving a lot of transgressions, costs, and inconveniences.

    If you are in sales, you can learn a hell of a lot from dogs.  

    How you make a person FEEL is very important.

    If you want to win and prosper in life and business, make the other person FEEL good about themselves.

    A Small Package

    It's All Going to Pot

    Willie and Merle say the world is going to pot. Yep, I think it is. I am pretty sure a lot of the medications folks are taking now could simply be replaced with a little pot of one kind or another. 

    I'm a coffee pot guy, and I am not shy about letting my freak flag fly on that score, but the other stuff seems to work for other things, and for a heck of a lot of people too. Legalize it!  The Libertarians are right on this one.

    I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

    You know what I like?  I like being right!

    Back in December of 2012, I sent a note to Dave Mason down in Tennessee that said

    I know a very, very solid fellow who is a professional dog trainer who is looking for a Patterdale pup... This fellow's name is Josh Moran, and he's in Buffalo, New York, but has come down digging with me, and he's a solid citizen who puts dogs first.

    I told Dave that any pup that went to Josh would be treated like a king and would become famous too.

    Now comes word that Josh and the pup -- now a young adult Patterdale by the name of Sif (the Norse goddess of earth for you who are unwashed in the berry juice of the hedge), are the new featured small dog trainers at Leerburg. Perfect! 

    A perfect pair.

    Congratulations to Josh and Sif, a perfect pair.  And Dave, I told you he would do right by the dog and make that dog famous.  Amiright or amiright?

    Terrier Work -- the Beginning , Part 3

    Malthus, Darwin, and the Enclosure Movement

    The great Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was the first person to write about fox-hunting as a social phenomenon. He was also the first person to talk about terrier work as part of the mounted hunts in Great Britain.

    It should be said that, to this day, terrier work is divided between those who pursue fox with horse and hounds, and those who pursue fox on foot with terrier and spade.

    Fouilloux, writing in 1560, was of the latter school. Though he wrote of a well-to-do landlord going out into the countryside with a cart of tools, a team of diggers, and a young maiden to stroke his brow, his terrier work had nothing to do with packs of hounds and a field of well-dressed riders.

    In Guy Mannering, we find the other kind of fox hunting. Here Scott is writing about High Society and fox hunting as social event. The juxtaposition between "the haves" and the "have nots" is a core part of the story.

    It is not an accident that the first substantive mention of fox hunting in English literature was written in 1815 and set in the 1760s. This period of time coincides with the great expansion of the Enclosure Movement which was to sweep through the United Kingdom and transform every facet of the British countryside.

    It is impossible to overstate the economic violence of the Enclosure Movement which has been described as "a revolution of the rich against the poor."

    In England some 6 million acres, or one-quarter of the cultivated acreage, was enclosed by direct act of Parliament. Another 4 to 7 million acres are estimated to have been enclosed privately. Most of the large woods were cut down and the land was hemmed in by stone walls and thick hedges — not only to keep sheep in, but also to keep peasants and their livestock out.

    Every part of the United Kingdom was effected by this "rich man’s land grab". Poor peasants poured into towns and cities, most without jobs, skills, money, or entertainment.

    One of the Great Questions facing the well-fed and well-bred in Great Britain at this time was what to do with the now inconvenient riffraff that were jungling up in cities and towns. This seething population seemed to breathe resentment and insurrection. At the very least they were discomforting and depressing.

    In 1798, the Reverend Thomas Malthus published his tract on human population growth, which was written as a defense of the Enclosure Movement.

    Malthus argued that the poor were morally incapable of abstaining from sex and that all other forms of birth control were clearly a Sin. The dilemma was what to do with the growing (and inevitable) number of poor which threatened Britain’s social fabric. Malthus argued that rather than help the poor, society should push them towards the grave so that the lives of the rich (and presumably moral and abstentious) could be better enjoyed and poor taxes reduced:

    Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases: and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. If by these and similar means the annual mortality were increased ... we might probably every one of us [moral, rich and abstinent] marry at the age of puberty and yet few be absolutely starved.

    In fact, increasing the level of misery was very much on the menu in early 19th Century England.

    With the Enclosure Movement, came restrictions on hunting on lands that had once been part of the Commons.

    The Game Laws of 1816, for example, limited the hunting of small game — such as pheasant, partridge, hares and rabbits — to landowners. The penalty for poaching was "transportation" overseas for seven years. If convicted a second time you were never to be allowed to return.

    The Poor Law Amendments Act of 1834 started the work house system later made famous by Charles Dickens. Across England hundreds of thousands of people died premature deaths from diseases that flourished in the squalor of cities where sewage, water and trash systems were incapable of keeping up with rural-to-urban migration pressures.

    Brown rats, which first arrived in England around 1720, found the cities of England a delightfully accommodating place, and they soon drove out the Black Rat, thereby ending the Black Plague carried by the black rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopis).

    Brown rats had another use. At harvest time rural threshers often kept terriers to kill rats that buried themselves in wheat and oats waiting to be separated. "Threshing parties," held at harvest time, often pitted several local terriers against the scores of rats seething through a now-greatly reduced pile of straw and grain.

    A variant of this sport was recreated in the cities, with terriers competing to see who could most rapidly kill their weight in rats. Thus were born the Victorian rat pits, a kind of reduced version of the arena animal-baiting made famous by the Romans and still evident in the bull rings of Spain today.

    Out in the countryside livestock of both sexes were still kept together in the fields and allowed to breed at random, but that was about to change. A farmer by the name of Robert Bakewell realized that simply by separating males from females — made easy by the rising number of enclosed fields — a farmer could choose which stock was allowed to breed. By deliberately inbreeding livestock, and selecting for desirable traits, Bakewell rapidly created new and "improved" breeds of sheep and transformed modern agriculture forever.

    Bakewell’s experiments with sheep quickly spilled over into other farm stock, such as cattle, pigs, and chickens, and eventually into pet stock such as dogs and pigeons.

    One of the people who noticed the rapid transformation of British livestock was naturalist Erasmus Darwin who devoted an entire chapter in Zoonomia to the rapid changes he observed being made to British farm animals.

    For his part, Erasmus’ son, Charles Darwin, was so besotted with country sport that his father despaired he would ever amount to much of anything.

    "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and your family," Erasmus wrote to Charles.

    In fact Charles Darwin turned out all right.

    After washing out of medical school and the seminary, and then letting a romantic relationship drift away (due to his being more infatuated with beetles than women), young Charles signed on as naturalist aboard the Beagle, a survey boat on a voyage around the world.

    Darwin returned to Britain in 1836, but it was not until 1859 that he wrote The Origin of Species, and then only after reading Reverend Thomas Malthus’s work on the role of "natural" limits to population growth.

    Darwin’s ruminations about evolution were greatly influenced by the amazing varieties of livestock being produced by farmers and fanciers in the U.K. at this time. He was especially fascinated by pigeon breeders who were able to rapidly express all kinds of peculiar variation from the common rock dove — rollers, pouters, fantails, barbs, tumblers, and carriers, to name a few.

    It was not much of a leap to speculate that the forced selection being done by pigeon breeders might have a parallel in "natural selection" among finches on a remote volcanic island in the Pacific.

    Thus was borne the Theory of Evolution.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Lawyers, Guns, and Money

    It appears the NRA has been taking membership dues and donations
    and using them for Political Action Committee electioneering, a clear violation of U.S. law.

    Alan Berlow has been making periodic donations to the NRA to see where the money ends up, and he reports:

    Some of it quickly found its way into the account of the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, the NRA’s political action committee. And that was of no small interest, because I never knowingly contributed to the NRA-PVF. For me, this wasn’t a big problem; my contributions were a spit in the bucket for an organization that spent $37 million on the 2014 elections and operates on an annual budget of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. But my contributions and others like them may be a big problem for the NRA because, according to some of the nation’s top experts on federal election law, they are all illegal.

    The issue is not just that my donations ended up in a political fund account, but the way the NRA solicited them — and presumably those of thousands of others. In fact, each of these transactions almost certainly violated multiple provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and a legion of state and federal antifraud statutes designed to protect the public from phony charities and false or misleading solicitations.

    The FECA makes a hard distinction between solicitations for elections and other solicitations, in part because many Americans don’t like donating to politicians. An NRA member might contribute to the organization because she admires its work on behalf of hunters. She might also contribute to an environmental group because she wants to preserve forests. But this same donor may vehemently oppose the candidates endorsed in federal elections by both the NRA and the environmental group. As a result, the law makes it clear that when these groups are soliciting for electoral purposes they must disclose that fact to potential donors. 

    To be clear, the National Rifle Association's violations are clear black-letter law violations of both the FEC and IRS, and there are not just a few of them, but at least a half-dozen dealing with their PAC, their corporate political expenditures, and their accounting and reporting.

    Among the top 25 political nonprofit groups spending money in federal elections in 2012, only the NRA failed to report any of its political expenditures to the IRS. The other politically active nonprofits all acknowledged when they were involved in direct or indirect political activity, filed the required IRS reporting schedule with their tax return, declared how much they spent to support or oppose candidates, and paid any tax owed. Although several reported huge expenditures — $71 million for Crossroads GPS, $36 million for the Chamber of Commerce and $37 million for Americans for Prosperity — none had anywhere near the investment income reported by the NRA, or a substantial tax liability. Based on the NRA’s reports, it appears it would have owed more than $600,000. Put another way, none of the other groups had as much to lose by filing the returns required by law as did the NRA.

    Read the whole thing. here.

    After the Storm

    Massive storm last night with real pyrotechnics and wind. We lost power at around 8 am and I do not think it came back on until about 4 am.  My neighbor fired up his massive generator, but I left my alone and simply went to bed.

    This morning my electric fence system seems to be fried, which is the first time in 15 years or so that I have needed maintenance.  Will get them out this week if I can.  Until the, crates and pens and long lines.

    The birds are pretty quiet after the storm.  Normally they are rioting in the morning, but I do not think too many slept last night, and most are probably exhausted from just hanging on.

    Surprisingly few limbs down.  I suppose our winter snows pruned all that were going to fall.

    Terrier Work -- the Beginning, Part 2

    First Movements From France

    The origins of the first terrier are shrouded in mystery, but probably originate with the Romans who brought rabbits to Great Britain around the year 1000. Excavations near Hadrian’s wall have uncovered two types of dogs, one resembling a greyhound, and the other with a long and low body similar to that of a dachshund.

    The first detailed record of earth work, as we know it today, was recounted in 1560 by a Frenchman by the name of Count Jacques du Fouilloux. Fouilloux wrote a fairly detailed book entitled La Vernarie (The Art of Hunting), in which he describes hunting fox and badger with tools remarkably similar to those used by terriermen today.

    Fouilloux describes the dogs as being "bassets," and indeed the illustrations do show dogs that look like small long-bodied hounds — possible antecedents to today’s dachshund which, in German, means "badger dog".

    George Turberville, an Englishman, translated Fouilloux’s book and put it out as his own work, replacing "basset" with the word "terrier," even though Fouilloux’s pictures (also copied) bore not the slightest resemblance to the terriers we know today.

    In fact, the terriers of Turberville’s time may have looked more like dachshunds than our modern dogs. There is no question that the oldest terrier breed in the U.K. — the Dandie Dinmont — clearly resembles a dachshund in appearance.

    At this point, mounted hunts for deer and fox did not yet exist in Britain. Instead Medieval Britons engaged in driven hunts inside deer parks edged by massive earthwork moats and mounds topped by wooden fences. Deer were driven by dogs into funnel-shaped wattle fences constructed within the parks, and deer (and the occasional fox or feral dog) were then shot by archers perched on tree platforms as they exited the funnel narrows.

    Fourteenth Century England had over 3,000 deer parks occupying more than 650,000 acres of land, but these deer parks fell into disrepair during the late Medieval times as the feudal system collapsed under the mortality and economic disruption caused by the Black Plague.

    Formal deer parks were eventually replaced by a new type of hunting imported from France — coursing with horse and hound — and some of the vernacular of today’s mounted hunts betray the French origins of the sport. "Tally Ho," for example, derives from the French "Il est haute" ("it is up there").

    Coursing was initially limited to stag, but by the beginning of the 1600s, fox hunting had begun.

    The first formal mounted fox hunt in the U.K. was probably the Bilsdale in the Yorkshire Dales, started in the early 1600s. Over the course of the next 150 years fox hunting slowly gained in popularity, but stag hunting still dominated right through to the start of the 19th Century.

    To order >> American Working Terriers

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Soul Salvation

    Taxidermy Border Terrier

    This stuffed border terrier is pictured at this Scottish Taxidermy web site.

    Around the world there are a small group of people who seem unable to cope with the death of a pet, and think it appropriate to have it taxidermied and kept in the hall.

    An odd thing if you ask me, but the world is full of odd people, isn't it?

    Here in the U.S., Roy Rogers had his horse, Trigger, mounted rearing up on his hind legs after it died in 1965. For years the horse was kept in the foyer of Roy's house, but now it gets about 200,000 visitors a year at The Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Missouri.

    At the museum, you can also see Buttermilk (Dale Evans' horse) and Bullet (the Rogers' German Shepherd) who are mounted alongside.

    Roy Rogers, for the record, died in 1998, but (sadly) he is not stuffed and mounted in a glass case at the museum.

    Terrier Work -- the Beginning , Part 1

    The development of the terrier, and the various debates about terriers that occur today, cannot be understood without an understanding of how terrier work is connected to the history of the British countryside, especially the Enclosure Movement.

    Enter the Dog

    "It is always best to start at the beginning."

    In theory, if you are talking about dogs, this means you are supposed to talk about how dogs evolved from wolves.

    I won’t belabor the point except to say that, while true, the statement is a bit overstated. A dog is not a wolf. A dog is a dog.

    This is not to say that wolves and dogs are not evolutionarily related — this is an absolute fact. Dogs descended from wolves, probably through some form of long-lasting proto-wolf phase.

    That said, the differences between dogs and wolves are not small, but enormous, governing the most elemental issues of existence, from reproduction to communication.

    A wolf, for example, goes into estrus only once a year, generally in February or March. A dog normally goes into estrus twice a year, and this can occur in any season. A male dog lifts its leg to pee, while a female dog squats to pee.

    In wolf packs, only the top male and top female raise their legs to pee — all subordinate animals squat to pee.

    Dogs bark — it is their primary vocalization and maddeningly common, especially early in the morning when you are trying to sleep. Adult wolves bark so rarely it is almost never heard in the wild.

    Wolves and coyotes howl, and do so very frequently — generally in the early evening just after waking up and before going off to hunt. Dogs almost never howl except under very special conditions and in response to sustained noises that rise and fall — like the wail of fire engines. You may have 15 dogs in your yard, but they will not howl every morning as a coyote or wolf will.

    The fact that dogs, wolves and coyotes CAN interbreed does not mean they actually do except under the rarest of circumstances.

    Dogs and wolves operate on completely different wavelengths, and only in the most extreme kinds of "prison romance" situations do these two animals leap the species barrier, generally only in captivity or in very rare instances when a vanguard of a species (a lone coyote or wolf in a very large area devoid of all other wolves and coyotes) finds it impossible to mate with its own kind.

    In short, wolves and dogs have drifted so apart from each other that key signals related to sex, communication and hierarchy are no longer shared.

    A dog is not a wolf.

    Scientists are divided as to when the wolf split off from the proto-wolf, and when the proto-wolf became a dog.

    What seems clear is that the lives of dogs and humans have been intertwined for many thousands of years. During most of this time humans exerted little or no control over breeding, and evolution appears to have worked its invisible hand to produce a fairly common, smallish, coyote-looking dog.

    This "pie dog" or pariah dog can be seen prowling the edges of dumps the world over, looking not too different from the dingo or "Carolina Dog" favored by our Neolithic ancestors.

    Genetic researchers tracking mitochondria DNA have shown that most of the dog breeds seen in Kennel Club show rings today are of very recent origin.

    The supposedly "ancient" Ibiza hound and Pharaoh hound, for example, turn out to have been made up within the last 100 years or so — bred to look like the drawings and sculptures of sleek, slender-necked canines found on pharaonic tombs at the time of Carter. The Norwegian elkhound, a breed supposedly dating back to Viking dogs, was created within the past few hundred years.

    And so it is with nearly every breed of dog, with very rare exception.

    The terrier, it should be said, is not one of those exceptions.

    No terrier breed is more than a few hundred years old, and most were created within the last 150 years.

    To order >> American Working Terriers 

    Coffee Without Provocation

    I took this picture accidentally yesterday, while fiddling with my phone while out at lunch with friends.  A very bad, poorly framed, washed out picture of the end of a mediocre capachino, I decided to see what I could do to make it interesting.  Results below. All of this done with a few iPhone apps.

    Spring Has Sprung

    A wild flower called Dutchman's Breeches.
    May Apples, also called Mandrake 
    Redbud and Civil War cannon at the local ring fort where I walk the dogs.
    Dogwood at same location.

    Sunday, April 19, 2015

    Digging on the Dogs

    Misto checks out something alive in a pipe.
    Moxie's turn next.
    Raccoon snared out and released unharmed.
    Nate T. and Peppper

    Yesterday was a big day for Moxie
    , who met her first raccoon in a very shallow pipe (as did Misto).  It was also Moxie's birthday and she came into heat.

    All in all a great day in the field with Nate T. and his dogs Pepper and Rags who did most of the substantive work pressing the raccoon to a stop end. Lots of holes for the dogs to explore, but the ground was as soft as butter, and the groundhogs were able to dig away in the absence of a really small experienced worker. She's coming! The raccoon, of course, could not dig away. Along with ducks, several great blue herons, and a painted turtle, we also busted a really large red fox (almost certainly a dog) running down the bank, and Nate got his picture taken with Jeter, the farmer's very friendly Bull.

    A few more sessions in the field, and both Moxie and Misto should be making quantum leaps. I have held them back a month or two, largely because Moxie is so small that I want to make sure her brain and attitude are locked in place, and a few months can make a world of difference in that regard.

    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    The Dying AKC Is Proof Darwin Was Right

    Like the dinosaur that has noticed it has been raining ash from the sky for three straight weeks, the AKC is starting to become aware they are an ancient creature in a new world.

    Over at Canine Chronicle, a publication written for the inbred dog show crowd about their inbred show dogs, Gerry Meisels has a piece entitled The Future of Conformation Shows, which begins:

    A few weeks ago I stood by the ringside along with some of my friends and watched the judging in a Terrier breed, not my own Westies though. We watched several breeds, and I found out pretty quickly that my friend felt that the judge consistently put up the best known face in the ring. I couldn’t disagree with his opinion of this multiple group judge. Then we got ourselves a cup of coffee and the conversation became very wide ranging, from the decline in entries, to the aging of club members and exhibitors, the quality and cost of show facilities, individual dogs of various breeds – you surely have been in similar conversations yourself. After about half an hour or so we both became quiet and sat opposite each other on one of the food court’s picnic tables. Then out of a clear blue sky my friend said, “The way things are going, there will be no conformation shows in ten or fifteen years.” My friend, a long-time breeder and exhibitor in a Terrier breed different from mine, is quite knowledgeable about dogs and shows. He owner-handled one of his dogs to the top of the rankings, and has served as show chair and president of his club. The sense of the statement, that Conformation Shows (CSs) were in decline, did not surprise me but the vehemence and strength of that statement blew me away and set me to thinking. Are things really that bad, or is it just that shows are changing?

    Meisels goes on to say things ARE really bad, but he valiantly looks for hope.

    But here's the scoop: there isn't any.

    We no longer live in an era of rabbit ear antennas on the TV and a belief that the color of a person's skin should determine their place in life.

    The horseless carriage is gone, and so too is the  notion that there are "blue bloods" and royalty.

    People who sniff about their pedigree and their ancestors are screaming failures.  The most important people in the world are folks like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk. Not a blue blood or hint of royalty among them.

    And beauty pageants? When was the last time you saw one of those on TV? They are a product of the "Mad Men" era; an embarrassing anachronism that women's groups no longer even have to protest.  They are dead all on their own.

    And dog shows? They too are from another era. No one wants to be part of a parade of mutants, where deformed and diseased dogs with entirely fake histories are trotted out at the end of a string leash.

    It's always been a freak show (and not just for the dogs!), but now we know and understand the crackpot eugenic theories that underpin it all, and the freight train of pain and disease that has followed.

    And no, it does not help that the AKC itself not only winks at puppy mills but actually helps to subsidize them.

    Conformation dog shows come from an era in which women knew better than to speak up, gays were closeted, and blacks were at the back of the bus.

    Conformation dog shows come from an era in which gas had lead in it, and salt was not iodized.

    In short, dogs shows come from an era when we were a little bit stupider than we are today.

    Back in 2010, I predicted that the AKC would go out of business by 2025, and time has not shown me to be wrong.  AKC registrations, which topped 1.5 million in 1992, were down to 716,000 in 2010 and are now down to 400,00.

    Back in 2008 I quoted AKC Chairman Ron Menager who bemoaned market economics and wondered why the American people were no longer quite so gullible.  Menager wrote:

    The American Kennel Club faces enormous challenges in reversing the continuing decline in registrations. Today, we are losing market share at an alarming rate, especially in the retail sector. We are being challenged competitively and financially. The declining registrations and associated core revenues, if allowed to continue, will fundamentally change our organization going forward. Make no mistake, the very future of the AKC and our sport is at risk. ....

    .... AKC used to dominate the marketplace. Even places like Macy's and Gimbels sold AKC puppies. Many pet owners who bought these puppies, and I was one of them, tried their hand at showing and breeding.

    For decades we collected millions of registration dollars from AKC pet owners. These millions overwhelmingly subsidized our sport. Today, this scenario no longer exists. Twenty-five years ago almost all of our revenue was registration related. Last year less than one half of our revenues came from registrations. Dog registrations peaked at 1.5 million in 1992. By the end of 2008 it is projected we will register only 725,000 dogs. This is a staggering 53% decline.

    ... If the current trend continues and dog registrations decline to 250,000 over the next several years, AKC will face an annual revenue shortfall of $40 million. ... a $40 million revenue shortfall would necessitate a reduction of our expenses by two-thirds. This is totally unrealistic.

    So, did the AKC register only 725,000 dogs in 2008? They did not. They registered LESS than that, and the numbers are now down to 400,000, with more declines to follow.

    At a certain point, as Menager notes, there is an economic tipping point. The tipping can be slowed down by trying to find other sources of revenue, such as trying to create a veterinary and insurance company kickback scheme, which the AKC has tried, but in the end market forces are going to be too much and gravity and common sense are going to win.

    So when Gerry Meisels' friend says "The way things are going, there will be no conformation shows in ten or fifteen years,” he has it exactly right.

    Like the dinosaur that has noticed it has been raining ash from the sky for three straight weeks, the AKC is starting to become aware they are an ancient creature in a new world.

    Adapt or die? 

    There was a time where adaptation might have been possible, but that point is past.

    The AKC has become a toxic brand with failed leadership and no viable economic model.

    They are frozen in amber and unfit for function and, as Darwin predicted for such creatures, they are doomed to extinction.

    But will life go on? Oh yes. Count on it!

    Actions and Consequences - For People and Pets

    If you look in the glass reflection
    , you can see this kid thumping her chest -- a provocation to the adult gorillas at this zoo.

    What follows next is a full-on killer charge that was only (barely) stopped by shattered safety glass.

    Things could have gone very bad here -- for both human and gorilla.

    And yet the gorilla was simply "going gorilla," and the kid was just "monkeying around."

    Now change the animal in question, and make the gorilla a wolf, or his near-cousin, a dog, and remove the glass.

    See the point?  

    Every day kids are seriously mauled by dogs.  "My kid was just playing," the parent explains, "and the bite was unprovoked."

    Really?  You speak dog? You are bilingual in wolf?

    Here's the thing:  any dog can bite and, under the right circumstances, almost all dogs will.

    Children need to learn to respect dogs and other animals, especially ones they do not know well.

    Respect is not fear; it is simply a recognition that when a gorilla charges, or a dog bites, they are not doing something unnatural.

    A lot of life is a ZIP function -- "Zero" chance of it happening, but "Infinite Potential" harm if  it does. Teach kids to think through the consequences, especially the price to be paid by the animal if things "go bad."

    This was from a Jack Russell terrier,