Category: Philosophy

Another wonderful example of dog nurturing!

I take my hat off to The Dodo.

It’s a brilliant site and one that has reams of good stories about dogs.

Plus it’s OK to republish them which makes a huge difference to so many of you. For I get the impression that you love what they publish as much as I do.

Take this latest example of a dog nurturing an infant.

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Dog Gets Up During The Night To Help Put Crying Toddler Back To Sleep

When he walks in the room, we know she is in good paws and we can all get some more rest.

By 

PUBLISHED ON 07/12/2019

Almost 2 years ago, the lives of Sara Lebwohl and her husband Zach changed forever. That was when the first-time parents welcomed into the world their newborn daughter Halle.

But as the couple embarked on the journey of parenthood, they soon discovered there was someone eager to help them along the way.

That someone, of course, was their adorable dog Prince.

Sara Lebwohl

Even before Halle was born, Prince seemed to understand their family was about to grow. In fact, he rarely left Sara’s side, already devoted to the little one on the way.

Then the big day arrived.

Sara Lebwohl

“When she first came home, he went right up to her and sniffed her,” Sara told The Dodo. “He knew she was little and fragile. But he always stayed close and kept a very close eye on her. He was truly a nanny dog from the first day.”

Sara Lebwohl

Since then, Prince’s dedication to Halle has only grown deeper.

Sara Lebwohl

The two of them are simply inseparable — but although they always have a great time together, Prince still clearly sees himself as both playful companion and caretaker.
And it shows.

Sara Lebwohl

Halle is now nearly 2 years old, and has begun sleeping in her own room. But, as is often the case for youngsters her age, she still requires some comfort and reassurance in the early morning.

Prince, who usually sleeps in Mom and Dad’s room, has always been the first to notice when Halle is seemingly restless. And, without fail, he’d accompany whichever of them got up to attend to Halle during those inconvenient wake-up calls.

Recently, however, Sara and her husband had an idea: What if they left both their bedroom door and Halle’s open throughout the night? Would Prince put a fussy Halle back to sleep on his own?

Yes, is the answer — and here’s some sweet video to prove it:

“Surprisingly it has worked out well,” Sara said. “We crack the door open for him when she gets up, and he walks in to greet her. He has a little routine he does, including rolling around on the ground. Then he will look at her and lay down. The amazing thing is that this calms her, and she goes back to sleep.”

The dog’s stellar nannying skills have made life better for Halle — and her parents, too.

“Prince has been an unexpected savior, allowing us a bit more precious minutes to hours of sleep. When he walks in the room, we know she is in good paws and we can all get some more rest,” Sara said.

Now, everyone’s morning is that much happier.

Sara Lebwohl

This is just one of the ways that Prince has made life better. Every waking moment is improved by having him around, a faithful companion to those who love him the most. And as Halle grows, there’s no doubt he’ll continue to share in the joys and challenges that lie ahead.

His favorite little girl wouldn’t have it any other way.

“He takes his job as protective big brother very seriously,” Sara said. “Our family feels so fortunate to have a dog that is so loving and good-hearted. We are also thankful that Halle adores Prince.”

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See what I mean!

It’s a beautiful story of Prince being so attentive to the needs of Halle and Halle in turn adoring Prince.

Long after Prince has died, indeed for the rest of Halle’s days, she will love dogs.

Dogs teach us so much!

But the single most important lesson is integrity.

Again, another post from previous times. Albeit just a couple of years ago.

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Another tribute to dear Pharaoh.

The most profound thing that I learned from Pharaoh is that dogs are creatures of integrity. That goes back to a day in June, 2007. Some six months before I met Jeannie in Mexico in December, 2007. I was sitting in Jon’s home office just a few miles from where Pharaoh and I were then living in South Devon.

It was a key chapter in Part Four of my book where I examine all the qualities that we humans need to learn from our dogs.

So here is Chapter 13 from my book Learning from Dogs. (Written in ‘English’ English!)

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Chapter 13
Integrity

In the Introduction to this book I mentioned how the notion of “learning from dogs” went back to 2007 and me learning that dogs were creatures of integrity. Let me now elaborate on that.
It is a Friday morning in June in the year 2007. I am sitting with Jon at his place with Pharaoh sleeping soundly on the beige carpet behind my chair. I didn’t know it at the time but it was to become one of those rare moments when we gain an awareness of life that forever changes how we view the world, both the world within and the world without.

“Paul, I know there’s more for me to listen to and I sense that we have established a relationship in which you feel safe to reveal your feelings. However, today I want to talk about consciousness. Because I would like to give you an awareness of this aspect of what we might describe under the overall heading of mindfulness.”
I sat quietly fascinated by what was a new area for me.

“During the years that I have been a psychotherapist, I’ve seen an amazing range of personalities, probably explored every human emotion known. In a sense, explored the consciousness of a person. But what is clear to me now is that one can distil those different personalities and emotions into two broad camps: those who embrace truth and those who do not.”

Jon paused, sensing correctly that I was uncertain as to what to make of this. I made it clear that I wanted him to continue.

“Yes, fundamentally, there are people who deny the truth about themselves, who actively resist that pathway of better self-awareness, and then there are those people who want to know the truth of whom they are and seek it out when the opportunity arises. The former group could be described as false, lacking in integrity and unsupportive of life, while the latter group are diametrically opposite: truthful, behaving with integrity and supportive of life.”
It was then that Jon lit a fire inside me that is still burning bright to this day. For he paused, quietly looking at Pharaoh sleeping so soundly on the carpet, and went on to add, “And when I look at dogs, I have no question that they have a consciousness that is predominantly truthful: that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life.”
That brought me immediately to the edge of my seat, literally, with the suddenness of my reaction causing Pharaoh to open his eyes and lift up his head. I knew in that instant that something very profound had just occurred. I slipped out of my chair, got down on my hands and knees and gave Pharaoh the most loving hug of his life. Dogs are creatures of integrity. Wow!

****

Later, when driving home, I couldn’t take my mind off the idea that dogs were creatures of integrity. What were those other values that Jon had mentioned? It came to me in a moment: truthful and supportive of life. Dogs have a consciousness that is truthful, that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life: what a remarkable perception of our long-time companions.
I had no doubt that all nature’s animals could be judged in the same manner but what made it such an incredibly powerful concept, in terms of dogs, was the unique relationship between dogs and humans, a relationship that went back for thousands upon thousands of years. I realised that despite me knowing I would never have worked it out on my own, Jon’s revelation about dogs being creatures of integrity was so utterly and profoundly obvious.

As I made myself my usual light lunch of a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some fruit and then sat enjoying a mug of hot tea, I still couldn’t take my mind off what Jon had revealed: dogs are examples of integrity and truth. I then thought that the word “examples” was not the right word and just let my mind play with alternatives. Then up popped: Dogs are beacons of integrity and truth. Yes, that’s it! Soon after, I recognised that what had just taken place was an incredible opening of my mind, an opening of my mind that didn’t just embrace this aspect of dogs but extended to me thinking deeply about integrity for the first time in my life.

Considering that this chapter is titled “Integrity”, so far all you have been presented with is a somewhat parochial account of how for the first time in my life the word “integrity” took on real meaning. That until that moment in 2007 the word had not had any extra significance for me over the thousands of other words in the English language. Time, therefore, to focus directly on integrity.

If goodness is to win, it has to be smarter than the enemy.

That was a comment written on my blog some years ago, left by someone who writes their own blog under the nom-de-plume of Patrice Ayme. It strikes me as beautifully relevant to these times, times where huge numbers of decent, law-abiding folk are concerned about the future. Simply because those sectors of society that have much control over all our lives do not subscribe to integrity, let alone giving it the highest political and commercial focus that would flow from seeing integrity as an “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” To quote my American edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.

Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”

That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is one of the safest forms of transport in the world today. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft. If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet, likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!

The great challenge for this civilisation, for each and every one of us, is translating that sense of wanting to change into practical, effective behaviours. I sense, however, that this might be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. That it is not a case of learning to behave in myriad different ways but looking at one’s life from a deeper, more fundamental perspective: living as a person of integrity. So perfectly expressed in the Zen Buddhist quote: “Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” Seeing integrity as the key foundation of everything we do. Even more fundamental than that. Seeing integrity as everything you and I are.

It makes no difference that society in general doesn’t seem to value integrity in such a core manner. For what is society other than the aggregate of each and every one of us? If we all embrace living a life of integrity then society will reflect that.

Integrity equates to being truthful, to being honest. It doesn’t mean being right all the time, of course not, but integrity does mean accepting responsibility for all our actions, for feeling remorse and apologising when we make mistakes. Integrity means learning, being reliable, and being a builder rather than a destroyer. It means being authentic. That authenticity is precisely and exactly what we see in our dogs.

The starting point for what we must learn from our dogs is integrity.

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The face of integrity!

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Dogs don’t lie!

They offer unconditional love!

Their world is relatively straightforward.

That is all that we need to know about them.

This is so beautiful!

Another gorgeous story from The Dodo.

I make no apologies for featuring so quickly another article from The Dodo.

It’s just so beautiful and another example of the special characteristics of dogs.

Just see for yourself.

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Rescue Dog Won’t Let Orphaned Foal Sleep Alone

The foal knew that the dog was trying to help him.

BY
PUBLISHED ON 06/27/2019

At only 9 days old, a foal named Tye lost his mother. But that same night he gained an unexpected friend — an Australian cattle dog named Zip.
Zip had never shown much interest in his horse siblings. “We raise foals every year, and he would kind of look in the door and just look at them,” Karla Swindle, Zip’s mom, told The Dodo.

But on that fateful night in March, it was as if the 5-year-old rescue dog could tell he was needed.

Facebook/Karla Swindle

Tye’s mother became sick days after giving birth, and despite treatment, quickly went downhill. When things looked their bleakest for the mother and baby, Swindle stayed by their side. As always, Zip tagged along after his owner.

“I spent the night at the barn taking care of the mama horse, hoping that I could pull her through,” Swindle said. “Zip stayed with me in the alley of the barn all night — the foal was laying in the alley, and he just lay there beside the foal.”
“He was whining,” Swindle added. “You could tell that Zip knew something was wrong that night.”

The next morning, Tye lost his mother, but he wasn’t alone.

Zip insisted on keeping the newborn horse company, comforting the little animal with his presence. When Zip was around, Tye was relaxed and happy. “It seemed to me that the foal knew that the dog was trying to help him,” Swindle said, “which is so sweet.”

Facebook/Karla Swindle

For six weeks, Zip wouldn’t let Tye out of his sight. Whenever Swindle went to feed the foal, Zip was first in line to greet the little horse. “Every time I would take off to the barn, Zip would run to the stall, and stand in front of the stall and wait for me to get there,” Swindle said. “He would beat me to the barn every time.”

“As soon as I opened the door, he would about knock me down before I could get in there,” she added. “If the foal was laying down, he would go over there and lay his head on him.”

Facebook/Karla Swindle

As months passed, Tye quickly put on weight, growing into a healthy young horse — in part, thanks to his adoptive dad.

Now, Tye spends most days out in the pasture with his older sister, who is teaching him the ins and outs of being a horse. And while Zip still accompanies Swindle to the barn, he doesn’t beg to go in the stall with Tye anymore.

Facebook/Karla Swindle

“The foal is a little rough now,” Swindle said, “raring up, trying to play, so Zip kind of stays away from him now.”

The proud dad understands that Tye needs to test his independence, and it doesn’t make their relationship any less special.

“You could tell that when the foal needed Zip, Zip was there for him,” Swindle said. “And now Zip knows that the foal is OK, so they kind of went their separate ways.”

Facebook/Karla Swindle

But it seems the little horse has opened up room in the older dog’s heart — space that he has since filled with another baby.

“He loves my granddaughter,” Swindle said. “Whenever she comes over here, he goes directly to her. He treats her like he did the foal. He just loves to be around her.”

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We have mentioned it time and time before. That dogs are so special. And then one comes across an account of something that is even more special.

All of the photographs are delightful but that third one shows the intimacy that is in the relationship. The caring that is being shown by Zip!

I have said it before and no doubt will say it many times more: Dogs are incredibly wonderful.

The power of a photograph

No words to say how I feel!

The bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter lie on the bank of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico. AP Photo/Julia Le Duc

This is a terrible photograph. It has been widely shown but that doesn’t make it any less terrible.

Patrice Ayme recently wrote about the tragedy but for today I am republishing the article in The Conversation.

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How much power can one image actually have?

By

Associate Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon

Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon

When the Associated Press published Julia Le Duc’s photograph of a drowned Salvadoran man, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, and his 23-month old daughter Valeria, it sparked outrage on social media. According to Le Duc, Ramírez had attempted to cross the Rio Grande after realizing he couldn’t present himself to U.S. authorities to request asylum.

But beyond raising awareness via Twitter and Facebook feeds, does an image like this one have the power to sway public opinion or spur politicians to take action?

As journalism and psychology scholars interested in the effects of imagery, we study the ability of jarring photos and videos to move people from complacency to action. While graphic imagery can have an immediate impact, the window of action – and caring – is smaller than you’d think.

A political catalyst?

Photographs and videos – through their perceived authenticity – can have an effect on people.

Research suggests that the graphic photo of slain Emmett Till in his open casket served as a “political catalyst” in mobilizing Americans to action in the civil rights movement. Similarly, news images have been credited as playing an important role in ending the Vietnam War.

But not all scholars agree. A recent article argued that it was a “myth” that the iconic “napalm girl” photo swayed public opinion and hastened the end of the Vietnam War.

Did the ‘napalm girl’ significantly shift public opinion on the Vietnam War? manhhai/flickr, CC BY

We must also look to psychology to understand the impacts of emotional news content. Research demonstrates that audiences need an emotional connection – and not merely a “just-the-facts” reporting approach – as “prerequisite for political action” when it comes to appreciating the importance of distant mass suffering. And imagery can trigger this emotional connection by overcoming the psychic numbing that occurs when casualties mount, images blur and lost lives become merely dry statistics.

Images from Syria

In April 2017, gut-wrenching images seem to have awakened the world to the human atrocities happening in Syria. Following a chemical bomb attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, graphic photos and videos documented the horrific effects of the banned nerve agent sarin. Millions bore witness to excruciating human suffering: gasping, choking, writhing and dying. More than 500 people were injured, with at least 86 deaths, including 28 children.

The vivid, closeup images of sarin attack victims were resonant enough to break through the complacency of people and politicians accustomed to bad news emerging from the war-torn nation. In President Trump’s response – which included a retaliatory missile strike – he seemed to recognize the value of the Syrian lives depicted in the horrific photos and videos.

Syrian doctors treat a child following a suspected chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. Edlib Media Center, via AP, File

“When you kill innocent children,” he said during a news conference, “that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line – many, many lines.”

The limits of an image

Nonetheless, even though the attacks may have briefly heightened U.S. concerns over the wars in Syria, the photographic documentation of the suffering in Syria wasn’t new.

The 2015 photos of a tiny Syrian boy’s lifeless body resting face down in the sand similarly stirred the world’s collective consciousness. Within hours of its release, the photo had reached 20 million people through Twitter, with many more millions seeing it on the front pages of newspapers the next day. Afterwards, government restrictions on accepting refugees were loosened while private donations to organizations like the Red Cross spiked dramatically.

A year later haunting images of a young boy in the back of an ambulance, caked in dirt and blood, galvanized the world.

But the emotional and compassionate responses to both photographs were short-lived. The bombing of civilians in Syria continued. Refugees continued risking their lives to escape the war zone.

After a photograph of a dead Syrian boy went viral in 2015, the number of daily donations to a Swedish Red Cross campaign designated specifically for aiding Syrian refugees spiked dramatically – but only for a brief window. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, CC BY-SA

Since the publication of Le Duc’s photo of the dead migrants, supportive politicians may feel emboldened to sound the alarm on the plight of Central American migrants. Donations to immigrant aid organizations might briefly spike.

But it seems that a photograph, no matter how emotionally devastating, can only do so much.

Yes, it can create a window of time when we’re motivated to act, and we’ll usually do so if we have effective options to pursue. This could mean a charitable donation at the individual level or, collectively, a surge of political will. However, psychology research from the “arithmetic of compassion” suggests that sympathy for distant human suffering declines when we’re presented with rising body counts. Sometimes we’re discouraged by the scope of the problem and this stops us from doing things that actually make a difference – even if partial solutions can save lives. Other times, if the options for helping others seem too narrow or ineffective, we’ll turn away and stop caring.

Images can alert us to the horrors of violence, mass migration and poverty. But as we have seen time and again, photographs and news footage of human suffering generally precipitate a short-term emotional reaction, rather than a sustained humanitarian response.

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As one reads the article it is much more than a comment on a single image despite how terrible that photograph may be.

The two scientists set out to show that the period that we are alarmed or terrified or just plain sad at the state of nations is rather short.

Maybe it’s the self-protective nature of our species that does this.

But it still doesn’t diminish the horror of that top photograph.

Back to those eyes!

A recent item on Healthy Pets offers some more information.

Yesterday Belinda, who is local to us in Merlin, Oregon, sent me a link to a further article about dogs’ eyes.

In an email to me, Belinda wrote:

I read your blog on a dog’s eyes and now I know why they have such expressive eyes.  I read this and didn’t know if you have any interest in a follow-up to that blog.

Well of course we do! 🙂

The only comment I would make is whether or not Dr. Becker is up-to-date with the latest science.

But here is the article.

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What does it mean when your dog gives you the ‘side-eye’?

by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

June 25, 2019

Story at-a-glance

  • The term side-eye denotes a greater amount of “white” in a dog’s eyes, which is more pronounced when the dog averts his head slightly, but keeps his eyes fixed on something or someone at the same time
  • Some dogs, particularly brachycephalic dogs (dogs with short muzzles), appear to show the whites of their eyes most of the time, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re feeling anything in particular
  • The side-eye may be a way for dogs to say “Back off,” and may precede some sort of aggression, especially if they’ve been guarding something like a toy — or food — and suddenly feel threatened
  • In studies of other types of canines, dingoes were found to initiate eye contact with a familiar human more often than wolves, but the duration was found to be shorter than the eye contact between humans and dogs
  • Dogs’ demeanor might appear to be excitement when they bark, whine, pant or pace, so it’s important to know your dog but also assess the situation that might be causing it

It’s been called the “whale eye,” that sidelong glance your dog gives you that communicates very strongly that something’s up. Also called the “side-eye,” it’s when the color white appears in a half-moon shape on either the right or left side of their eyes.

You may have seen dogs and their cute side-eye looks on social media. They can be quite comical, especially when the accompanying expressions match the captions. Nevertheless, it’s wise to know what your dog’s body language is trying to tell you, because as much as dogs might want to speak in human terms, they’re not able to.

So what does the whale eye mean? Trainers are said to use the term to describe a greater amount of “white” in a dog’s eyes as a means to communicate. It’s more pronounced when the dog averts his head slightly, but keeps his eyes fixed on something or someone at the same time.

Some dogs, particularly brachycephalic dogs (dogs with short muzzles), appear to show the whites of their eyes most of the time, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re feeling anything in particular. Other examples of a dog’s body language, especially if you know what to look for, signify very specific things. Depending on the situation, you might be able to discern what it means fairly quickly.

Side-eye may be a way for dogs to say “Back off,” and usually precedes some sort of aggression, especially if they’ve been guarding something like a toy — or food — and suddenly feel threatened.1 According to Bark Post:

“This is pretty common behavior for dogs to exhibit. Obviously, that doesn’t mean we want them to keep doing it, but it’s important to realize this doesn’t mean you have a defective pup. He’s still the adorable, hilarious, wonderful … little guy or girl you love.

When coming across this sort of behavior, you should definitely give your pup the space they’re asking for. Back up and analyze the situation. Did you get too close to the bone they’ve been hiding for 72 hours?”2

Signs your dog is trying to tell you something

If your dog is giving the side-eye to another person the dog may not be familiar with, experts advise dog owners to be aware of the behavior and try to diffuse it. “Much of what’s required in mitigating this behavior is just removing the cause from the situation.”3

If your dog’s side-eye response is accompanied by a rigid stance or visible tension, it happens more than once and it’s evident it’s not just a sidelong glance, it could be stress-related, and it wouldn’t hurt to contact a positive dog trainer or behaviorist. In many ways, like people, there are a number of ways dogs communicate stress, tension and anxiety.

Sometimes their demeanor might appear to be excitement, such as behavior like barking, whining, panting or pacing. Dogs that feel uncomfortable or nervous might communicate it by hiding, relieving themselves in the house, cowering or shaking. At times, however, the signs may be much more subtle, such as if you notice them blinking, yawning, licking, swallowing or shedding more than usual.

If your pup shows the side-eye or other signs of stress, petting him gently with long, smooth strokes from their chest, shoulder and base of their tail will help relax him.4,5 It helps relieve tension and could even serve as a sort of “maintenance” to help keep them calm in out-of-the-ordinary situations.

How eye contact in other canine species denotes communication

While wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) may not seem to have much in common with domestic dogs (Canis familiaris), experts place them in the same species. That great Danes and Chihuahuas are related to each other, not to mention these feral varieties, seems hard to believe, but domestic dogs came from wolves, and scientists say some wolf varieties may be coyote hybrids.

Dingoes, placed for years in the same canine designation as dogs, wolves and coyotes, have been deemed their own distinct species. They’re now formally called Canis dingo,6 even though they bear a remarkable resemblance to other canines. Over the last few centuries, their scientific names, such as Canis lupus dingo and Canis familiaris dingo, wrongly related them to the others.

Interestingly, a study7 on the origins of dog and human eye contact included all of the above species. It determined that dingoes establish eye contact less often than dogs do, but more often than wolves. In addition, dingoes were found to initiate eye contact with a familiar human more often than wolves, but the duration was found to be shorter than the eye contact between humans and dogs.

While words are the preferred mode of communication between humans, your dog may pay more attention to your posture, gestures and eye contact, possibly because they often use body language to communicate more than any other tool. They’re also in tune with your tone, and pick up from you more of your mindset than you might imagine.

Dogs’ body language changes around humans

Not only do dogs communicate with their humans with body language, they also do so with other dogs, especially when there’s more than one dog or several in a household. But the journal Nature cited a study8 showing that a dog literally “produces” more facial expressions when they’re looking straight at their significant humans. In fact, it:

“Support(s) for the idea that dogs do indeed produce facial expressions to communicate with people — although perhaps just to engage us, rather than to manipulate us. The dogs in the study produced more than twice as many facial expressions (‘puppy dog eyes’ was one of the most common) when a researcher was facing them than when she was turned away …

(It) adds to a growing body of work that shows how sensitive dogs are to human attention. It also provides the first evidence in a non-primate species that facial expressions can be used actively to communicate.”9

Psychology Today affirms that eyes are the “window to the soul.”10 If you’re a dog lover, you know you can share thoughts and feelings just by looking into your beloved pet’s eyes. It’s one of the signs that the bond between you is strong, and communicates mutual respect, as well. One more thing those eyes reveal is that the love your dog has for you is unconditional. Just watch out for those side-eyes.

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The numbered references do not appear to relate to any further details as a footnote to the article. Maybe one has to be a subscriber to gain access to them?

Anyway, the article was of interest and follows on very nicely to the article published on June 22nd: Those Eyes.

Reflections on the future

Father’s Day ….

….. was OK in the morning but for some reason I was in a dark mood in the afternoon.

(And if you want to skip today’s post I don’t blame you at all. This is not my usual style albeit it is important.)

I was reflecting on the state of the world. Global population was well in excess of seven billion people. The longevity of those people was increasing. That’s good news. The health standards were increasing. That’s also good news.

However, the pressure on farming is intense. More and more land is required. The natural world is under supreme pressure. Extinction rates of many natural species are soaring.

Planet Earth has far too many people!

OK, maybe in time the population level will come down but right now it is too high.

Then in came Tom Engelhardt’s latest essay. I read it and reflected. Is it too dark to post? Then Jeannie said that if you really want to share it then publish it.

Here it is, published with Tom’s kind permission.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt, Trump Change

Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 4:23pm, June 16, 2019.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

If Donald Trump Is the Symptom…
Then What’s the Disease?

By Tom Engelhardt
Don’t try to deny it! The political temperature of this country is rising fast. Call it Trump change or Trump warming, if you want, but grasp one thing: increasingly, you’re in a different land and, whatever happens to Donald Trump, the results down the line are likely to be ever less pretty. Trump change isn’t just an American phenomenon, it’s distinctly global. After all, from Australia to India, the Philippines to Hungary, Donald Trumps and their supporters keep getting elected or reelected and, according to a recent CNN poll, a majority of Americans think Trump himself will win again in 2020 (though, at the moment, battleground-state polls look grim for him).

Still, whether or not he gets a second term in the White House, he only seems like the problem, partially because no president, no politician, no one in history has ever gotten such 24/7 media coverage of every twitch, tweet, bizarre statement, falsehood, or fantasy he expresses (or even the clothes he wears). Think of it this way: we’re in a moment in which the only thing the media can’t imagine saying about Donald Trump is: “You’re fired!” And believe me, that’s just one sign of a media — and a country — with a temperature that’s anything but 98.6.

Since you-know-who is always there, always being discussed, always @(un)realdonaldtrump, it’s easy enough to imagine that everything that’s going wrong — or, if you happen to be part of his famed base, right (even if that right isn’t so damned hot for you) — is due to him. When we’re gripped by such thinking and the temperature’s rising, it hardly matters that just about everything he’s “done” actually preceded him. That includes favoring the 1%, deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants, and making war (unsuccessfully) or threatening to do so across significant parts of the planet.

Here, then, is the question of the day, the sort you’d ask about any patient with a rising temperature: If Donald Trump is only the symptom, what’s the disease?

Blowback Central

Let me say that the late Chalmers Johnson would have understood President Trump perfectly. The Donald clearly arrived on the scene as blowback — the CIA term of tradecraft Johnson first put into our everyday vocabulary — from at least two things: an American imperium gone wrong with its never-ending wars, ever-rising military budgets, and ever-expanding national security state, and a new “gilded age” in which three men (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett) have more wealth than the bottom half of society and the .01% have one of their own, a billionaire, in the Oval Office. (If you want to add a third blowback factor, try a media turned upside down by new ways of communicating and increasingly desperate to glue eyes to screens as ad revenues, budgets, and staffs shrank and the talking heads of cable news multiplied.)

Now, I don’t mean to sell Donald Trump short in any way. Give that former reality TV star credit. Unlike either Hillary Clinton or any of his Republican opponents in the 2016 election campaign, he sensed that there were voters in profusion in the American heartland who felt that things were not going well and were eager for a candidate just like the one he was ready to become. (There were, of course, other natural audiences for a disruptive, self-promoting billionaire as well, including various millionaires and billionaires ready to support him, the Russians, the Saudis… well, you know the list). His skill, however, never lay in what he could actually do (mainly, in these years, cut taxes for the wealthy, impose tariffs, and tweet his head off). It lay in his ability to catch the blowback mood of that moment in a single slogan — Make America Great Again, or MAGA — that he trademarked in November 2012, only days after Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency to Barack Obama.

Yes, four years later in the 2016 election, others began to notice the impact of that slogan. You couldn’t miss the multiplying MAGA hats, after all. Hillary Clinton’s advisers even briefly came up with the lamest response imaginable to it: Make America Whole Again, or MAWA. But what few at the time really noted was the crucial word in that phrase: “again.” Politically speaking, that single blowback word might then have been the most daring in the English language. In 2016, Donald Trump functionally said what no other candidate or politician of any significance in America dared to say: that the United States was no longer the greatest, most indispensable, most exceptionable nation or superpower or hyper-power ever to exist on Planet Earth.

That represented a groundbreaking recognition of reality. At the time, it didn’t matter whether you were Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Marco Rubio, you had to acknowledge some version of that formula of exceptionalism. Trump didn’t and, believe me, that rang a bell in the American heartland, where lots of people had felt, however indirectly, the blowback from all those years of taxpayer-funded fruitless war, while not benefitting from infrastructure building or much of anything else. They experienced blowback from a country in which new billionaires were constantly being created, while the financial distance between CEO salaries and those of workers grew exponentially vaster by the year, and the financing of the political system became a 1% affair.

With that slogan, The Donald caught the spirit of a moment in which both imperial and economic decline, however unacknowledged by the Washington political elite, had indeed begun. In the process, as I wrote at that time, he crossed a psychologically taboo line and became America’s first declinist candidate for president. MAGA captured a feeling already at large that tomorrow would be worse than today, which was already worse than yesterday. As it turned out, it mattered not at all that the billionaire conman spouting that trademarked phrase had long been part of the problem, not the solution.

He caught the essence of the moment, in other words, but certainly didn’t faintly cause it in the years when he financed Trump Tower, watched his five Atlantic City casinos go bankrupt, and hosted The Apprentice. In that election campaign, he captured a previously forbidden reality of the twenty-first century. For example, I was already writing this in June 2016, five months before he was elected president:

“In its halcyon days, Washington could overthrow governments, install Shahs or other rulers, do more or less what it wanted across significant parts of the globe and reap rewards, while (as in the case of Iran) not paying any price, blowback-style, for decades, if at all. That was imperial power in the blaze of the noonday sun. These days, in case you hadn’t noticed, blowback for our imperial actions seems to arrive as if by high-speed rail (of which by the way, the greatest power on the planet has yet to build a single mile, if you want a quick measure of decline).

“Despite having a more massive, technologically advanced, and better funded military than any other power or even group of powers on the planet, in the last decade and a half of constant war across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, the U.S. has won nothing, nada, zilch. Its unending wars have, in fact, led nowhere in a world growing more chaotic by the second.”

Mind you, three years later the United States remains a staggeringly powerful imperial force, with hundreds of military bases still scattered across the globe, while its economic clout — its corporations control about half the planet’s wealth — similarly remains beyond compare. Yet, even in 2016, it shouldn’t have been hard to see that the American Century was indeed ending well before its 100 years were up. It shouldn’t have been hard to grasp, as Donald Trump intuitively did, that this country, however powerful, was already both a declining empire — thank you, George W. Bush for invading Iraq! Mission Accomplished! — and a declining economic system (both of which still looked great indeed, if you happened to be profiting from them). That intuition and that slogan gave Trump his moment in… well, dare I call it “the afternoon sun”? They made him president.

MTPGA

In a sense, all of this should have been expectable enough. Despite the oddity of Donald Trump himself, there was little new in it, even for the imperial power that its enthusiasts once thought stood at “the end of history.” You don’t need to look far, after all, for evidence of the decline of empires. You don’t even have to think back to the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, almost three decades ago in what now seems like the Stone Age. (Admittedly, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a brilliant imagineer, has brought back a facsimile of the old Soviet Union, even if, in reality, Russia is now a rickety, fraying petro-state.)

Just take a glance across the Atlantic at Great Britain at this moment. And imagine that three-quarters of a century ago, that modest-sized island nation still controlled all of India, colonies across the planet, and an impressive military and colonial service. Go back even further and you’ll find yourself in a time when it was the true superpower of planet Earth. What a force it was — industrially, militarily, colonially — until, of course, it wasn’t.

If you happen to be looking for imperial lessons, you could perhaps say that some empires end not with a bang but with a Brexit. Despite all the pomp and circumstance (tweeting and insults) during the visit of the Trump royal family (Donald, Melania, Ivanka, Jared, Donald Jr., Eric, and Tiffany) to the British royals, led by a queen who, at 93, can remember better days, here’s something hard to deny: with Brexit (no matter how it turns out), the Earth’s former superpower has landed in the sub-basement of history. Great Britain? Obviously that adjective has to change.

In the meantime, across the planet, China, another once great imperial power, perhaps the greatest in the long history of this planet, is clearly on the rise again from another kind of sub-basement. That, in turn, is deeply worrying the leadership, civilian and military, of the planet’s “lone superpower.” Its president, in response, is wielding his weapon of choice — tariffs — while the U.S. military prepares for an almost unimaginable future war with that upstart nation, possibly starting in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the still-dominant power on the planet is, however incrementally, heading down. It’s nowhere near that sub-basement, of course — anything but. It’s still a rich, immensely powerful land. Its unsuccessful wars, however, go on without surcease, the political temperature rises, and democratic institutions continue to fray — all of which began well before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office and, in fact, helped ensure that he would make it there in the first place.

And yet none of this, not even imperial decline itself, quite captures the “disease” of which The Donald is now such an obvious symptom. After all, while the rise and fall of imperial powers has been an essential part of history, the planetary context for that process is now changing in an unprecedented way. And that’s not just because, since the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, growing numbers of countries have come to possess the power to take the planet down in a cataclysm of fire and ice (as in nuclear winter). It’s also because history, as we’ve known it, including the rise and fall of empires, is now, in a sense, melting away.

Trump change, the rising political temperature stirred by the growing populist right, is taking place in the context of (and, worse yet, aiding and abetting) record global temperatures, the melting of ice across the planet, the rise of sea levels and the future drowning of coastlines (and cities), the creation of yet more refugees, the increasing fierceness of fires and droughts, and the intensification of storms. In the midst of it all, an almost unimaginable wave of extinctions is occurring, with a possible million plant and animal species, some crucial to human existence, already on the verge of departure.

Never before in history has the rise and decline of imperial powers taken place in the context of the decline of the planet itself. Try, for instance, to imagine what a “risen” China will look like in an age in which one of its most populous regions, the north China plain, may by century’s end be next to uninhabitable, given the killing heat waves of the future.

In the context of both Trump change and climate change, we’re obviously still awaiting our true transformative president, the one who is not a symptom of decline, but a factor in trying to right this country and the Earth before it’s too late. You know, the one who will take as his or her slogan, MTPGA (Make The Planet Great Again).

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands,Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Tom Engelhardt

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I’m 74. I don’t know how long I’ve got.

Part of me wants to live for a long time. That’s why I am vegan and trying to stay as fit as I can. (I’m also aware that Jeannie’s Parkinson’s Disease is a terminal disease and that in the latter stages she will need me to look after her.)

But then again I’m not sure I want to live in a world that continues to degrade especially continues to degrade in natural ways.

What’s the answer?

What do others who are on or around my age think about it?

What is the disease?

Offering a clue

A republication of an earlier post from The Smithsonian

Those who read yesterday’s post will find today’s post highly interesting.

A copy of an article from two years ago in The Smithsonian.

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New Study Has a Bone to Pick With Dog Domestication Findings

Contrary to past research, a new DNA study suggests fido was only tamed once

One wave of domestication or two? The debate rages on. (Dageldog/iStock)

By Jason Daley
smithsonian.com
July 19, 2017

Though dogs are humanity’s oldest and most consistent animal friend, scientists have long struggled to figure out just how Canis familiaris came to be. Though researchers agree dogs are descended from wild wolves, they aren’t sure when and where domestication occurred. And as Tina Hesman Saey at Science News reports, a new study has revived the debate, suggesting that dogs were domesticated one time between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Dog domestication has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. In 2016, researchers looked at the mitochondrial DNA of modern and ancient dog species, determining that dogs come from two different wolf populations, one found in Europe and one found in Asia. That means that wolves would have been domesticated in two different places, with the two lineages eventually mixing in modern dogs.

But this latest research contradicts the double-domestication hypothesis. According to Ben Guarino at the Washington Post, researchers looked at the well-preserved DNA of two ancient dogs found in Germany, one 7,000 years old and one 4,700 years old, as well as the complete genomes of 100 modern dogs and snippets of DNA from 5,600 other wolves and dogs.

They traced the rate of mutations in the over time in the dog genomes. This technique, which creates a “molecular clock,” indicates that dogs diverged from wolves 36,900 years ago to 41,500 years ago in a single domestication event. But they can’t determine exactly where the split occurred. About 20,000 years later, the molecular clock indicates dogs split into European and Asian groups. They published their results in the journal Nature Communications

Not everyone is convinced by the study. Greger Larson, Oxford evolutionary biologist and author of the earlier domestication study, tells Guarino that the latest research does not explain the “ridiculously deep split” between the genetics of ancient European and Asian dogs. He also points out that while ancient dog bones have been found in far eastern Asia and western Europe, the middle of Eurasia seems to be empty of dog bones, suggesting that there were two ancient populations, separated by vast distances.

Krishna Veeramah, a palaeogeneticist at Stony Brook University and author of the new study says he doesn’t anticipate that the paper will put the issue to rest. “More ancient dog DNA from genomes will ultimately solve the problem,” he tells Rachael Lallensack at Nature. Researchers are hoping to find more geographically diverse DNA from dogs as well as samples from different time periods.

Whether it happened once or twice, how and why did domestication occur?

As Veeramah​ tells Helen Briggs at the BBC that it’s likely dogs evolved from wolves that began hanging around human camps, scavenging their scraps. ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.”

One early benefit of domesticated dogs may have been that they could help transport meat from carcasses or hunt dangerous game like cave bears and cave lions, Saey writes in an earlier Science News article.

For now, however, exactly when and where Fido first approached humans will remain a mastiff question.

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For my money the origins of the domestic dog are as Krishna Veeramah puts it: ”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he says. “While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.

How close are you to your dog?

A reflection on our dogs.

I was sorting out some stuff the other day and came across the following. It is the record of a talk I gave some time ago in connection with the publication of my book Learning from Dogs.

As much as I would have expected to have previously published this on the blog I cannot find an entry. So here you are!

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The concept of attributing dogs with human traits is nothing new. In fact the ancient Greeks came up with a fancy word for it around two thousand years ago: anthropomorphism.

As ever, the truth of the matter is not a case of black and white but subtle shades of grey. No doubt in another two thousand years as science advances and we discover more about DNA and the mysteries of the human and canine brains the picture will develop into sharper focus. In the meantime, we must satisfy ourselves with some basic observations.

Let’s start off on common ground. One thing that we all seem to agree on is that humans are at the top of the pile in terms of evolutionary sophistication. For obvious reasons we view ourselves as the being the highest life form (although there is increasing alarm that we have totally lost touch with our basic instincts, if not totally lost the plot, by endangering the very planet that sustains life as we know it).

But I digress – back to common ground. We agree that as children our mental capacity is not fully developed. We survive by our instincts and the basic needs to be fed, watered, sheltered and bonded in a family group where we defer to a natural hierarchy. When you think about it this is precisely how dogs survive.

Like children, dogs display the most basic instincts to rough and tumble, compete for toys and establish a natural pecking order. Inherent in this is the need for a parent or pack leader to set down boundaries and create order and stability out of chaos. Without this both child and dog feel insecure and may well grow to display anti-social behaviour.

You would responsibly bring a child up with love and discipline, have consistent boundaries, teach them what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.

Dogs too need love and discipline, consistent boundaries, and to learn what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.

Communicating with a child is not so very different from communicating with a dog. Young children, like dogs, do not have the power of speech so you have to work out alternative strategies to speech in order to get through to them. You will find that if you approach a dog in much the same way as you approach a child, life will be a whole lot easier for you. And the dog! Hopefully you will have realised that praise is a far stronger motivator that punishment.

A positive approach.

Take the example of the puppy that makes a puddle on the floor and the child that wets its bed. Each one of them have not learnt control of their bladder and are simply responding to the call of nature. Neither are being naughty nor are in the wrong.

Yelling at the child will only make it more stressed and, therefore, more likely to continue wetting the bed. In exactly the same way if a puppy has an accident on the carpet being harsh will make matters worse.

How many human ‘sports’ involve chasing a moving object? How many of these games also involve people working as a team to ‘catch’ these objects? Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton, etc. I could go on but you get the idea.

Why do we enjoy these games? Is it not because we too are instinctively striving for a pecking order within the pack and following our predatory instincts.

“No, no no!’ I hear you say. ‘We are a civilised, sophisticated race who have created these games for our enjoyment. They are so different to the throw and fetch games our canine friends mindlessly enjoy.’

Don’t kid yourself. Look also how football supporters revert to uninhibited childlike behaviour. At worst becoming hooligans and behaving, almost literally, like savage animals when they find themselves challenged or threatened by an opposing pack.

Or on a much more positive note how hundreds of fans, unrehearsed, suddenly find one voice and break into a prefect, heart-stopping rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Now that’s a perfect example of the ‘pack call’.

We all enjoy the close relationship we have with our dogs. Maybe sometimes we don’t realise quite how close we are.

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I can’t imagine life without our dogs.

They mean everything to Jeannie and me.

A photo of Pharaoh when he was quite an old fella!