Daily Archives: March 24, 2010

Reaping the whirlwind…

So, as I’ve written many times before it appears the efforts by the right wing entertainment complex and Republican political establishment to whip up anger among elements of the population is leading to extremist activity.

Concern about possible violence also escalated Wednesday after a severed gas line at the home of a Democratic lawmaker’s brother was discovered.

Conservative activists in Virginia posted the home address of Perriello’s older brother — believing it to be the congressman’s address — when suggesting in Web postings that those who disagreed with the Democratic lawmaker’s vote should “drop by” to make their opposition clear.

Now, I’ve always felt that demonstrations (even passionate ones) are clearly part of free speech and should be allowed.  While demonstrations outside someone’s home may be socially out of bounds, so long as local laws are being observed they’re fine (after all, this is a favorite tactic of animal/environmental activists).

Remember ladies and gentlemen, we’ve still got 3 (or 7) years to go in an Obama administration and there’s no sign that the rhetoric (both official and unofficial) is about to get toned down.

And how, exactly, will things defuse when we have about one fifth of the population who believe absolutely crazy shit?

  • He was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (25%)
  • He is a domestic enemy that the U.S. Constitutions speaks of (25%)
  • He is a racist (23%)
  • He is anti-American (23%)
  • He wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers (23%)
  • He is doing many of the things that Hitler did (20%)
  • He may be the Anti-Christ (14%)
  • He wants the terrorists to win (13%)

Now, my understanding is this poll was far short of perfect but really.  How are these people managing to get through the day without soiling themselves?

At this point, if something happens (hmmm….April 19 ring a bell?) I’m sure there will be a whole lot of people on the right stumbling over themselves to express their shock and condolences but there will be a clear line between their rhetoric and any extremist activity.

Who am I kidding?  They’ll deny any connection or claim it was the work of liberals.

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Making the world safe, one squeak toy at time

Jason has started what I hope to be a new feature on his blog:  Monday Pets.  He’s promising to delve into the behavior/cognitive abilities of the non-human animals we share our homes with.  This week, he takes on dogs and their play behavior.  In the post he mentions that he has to buy his dog (or, at least what I assume is his dog) a new toy squirrel every week.

That got me to thinking about Shiloh’s toy preferences.  Now, as I’ve stated, Shiloh is an odd dog.  I’m no vet but I’ve had dogs for most of my life and now after 12 years with Shiloh would be inclined to think he has a canine version of autism (if such a thing exists – perhaps I’ll go into all of his behavioral symptoms to explain why I think that’s the case at some point in the future).

But for today I’ll just talk about his toy preferences which are very specific.

He is only attracted to toys that squeak (I’m talking about solo play here, btw).  Toys with a squeaker are savaged until the noise maker has been destroyed and then they are forgotten.  His focus when it comes to such toys can be intense, with him chewing for hours on end (assuming the toy is sturdy enough to handle the abuse) and one one or two occasions he has even wet himself rather than stop attacking the toy.

I would suspect that the squeak elicits some sort of kill response from him except for one piece of evidence.  Shiloh enjoys chasing chimpmunks (whose warning chirp sounds remarkably like a squeak toy) and on at least two occasions has had the opportunity to actually get grab one in his jaws.  Both times he released it, unharmed, immediately and with surprise.

In terms of other play behavior Shiloh enjoys fetch and seems to use it not only for play but (given his general reluctance to petting by anyone other than me) also seems to use it as a tool for establishing/maintaining social bonds.  If he gets anxious or I have to discipline him he’ll frequently go for a fetch toy or act in a way to try to elicit me to throw one.  It seems to be a way of communicating “I know this was a stressful situation but we’re still cool, right?”

The fetch instinct is apparently fairly unusual for beagles (they’ll chase just fine but tend not to come back) and was totally organic on his part.  He chased and retrieved to my amusement without any encouragement or prodding.

Total play behavior. Bow pose, mouth open but no teeth, and relaxed face.

Shiloh will not play any sort of ‘tug-of-war’ and, in fact, will not but his mouth on any toy I have in my hand.  While I didn’t encourage such play in him as a pup I don’t recall actively discouraging it but it simply doesn’t compute for him.  That’s generally a good thing.

While Shiloh has been a bit of a challenge, his behavioral issues provide an interesting view of canine behavior because many times they’re so exaggerated.

Today Jason continues the dog theme with a discussion about dog growls.  Again, Shiloh provides a great learning experience and over the years I am well attuned to the meaning of his growls with or without visual clues.  His food/territorial growl is very different from his play growl which is very different from his stranger growl.

Definitely not a play face...ears back, lips curled and a warning growl means much more and you could expect a snap.

His barks, similarly, are very distinct (at least to me) and I have a high degree of confidence I can understand them even when he’s out of sight.

While the differences and very noticeable to me, Mrs. TwShiloh was unable to distinguish them for a few years and is only now able to distinguish them (and not to the degree that I can which is understandable).

Now for a beagle with a manic focus I can tell you that regular squeak toys do not last long in our house.  They typical toy will generally not survive more than 15 minutes of his attention (and no, I’m not exaggerating).  I find the kong wubba to be a very satisfactory and sturdy toy, well worth the price.  While he has ‘killed’ several we have one that has defied him for several months at this point.

Thiessen’s disaster

Jane Mayer (whose book I haven’t yet read) reviews Marc Thiessen (whose book I won’t waste my time on)  in the New Yorker.  It does a pretty good job of exposing Theissen for the hack he is and when combined with Alexander‘s and Stewart‘s treatment of him should really relegate this guy to the dustbin of history*.
But I’m not posting this to further pile on Thiessen (after all, I’ve done that twice already here) but because of something Mayer writes a couple of things that can be useful for analysts (or anyone else) trying to convince an audience.
…Thiessen explains that he got a rare glimpse of the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program when, in 2006, he helped write a speech for President George W. Bush that acknowledged the program’s existence and offered a spirited defense of it. “This program has given us information that has saved innocent lives,” Bush declared.

In an effort to bolster the President’s speech, the C.I.A. arranged for Thiessen to see classified documents, and invited him to meet agency interrogators. He says that he emerged convinced of the program’s merit.
Another way to say that is ‘Thiessen went to get a briefing by people who had a vested interest in him reaching a particular conclusion.’  Now, obviously I don’t know this but one does wonder how much effort a speechwriter would have put in to examine counter arguments.  I don’t expect the guy to do a rigorous ACH but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that he tried to find alternate opinions.  That’s fine while he was writing speeches and his job was to describe policy but he’s now moved into the realm of pundit which means his arguments should meet a higher degree of rigor.
This reminds me of people who get their first encounter with those who have mighty reputations.  It may be organizational (special forces, FBI, Israeli intelligence, take your pick depending on your own specific community) or it may be individual (whoa, it’s THAT guy!) but in either case the temptation is to consider that source to have unquestioned credibility.  It’s kind of like being starstruck.
In any case it’s argumentum ad verecundiam and should be a big no-no.
*Or to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post…really kind of the same thing nowadays.