Archive for June, 2012

Government Employee Corruption

June 28, 2012

I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, over 20 years ago. I was an urban planner, & my task was mostly development control. The government  employees were not able to limit illegal developments of public buildings due to developers paying off politicians. So, they needed an outsider  who was not beholden to anyone to get  things straightened out.

When I first got there, my counterparts, honest young men, told me I didn’t know what it was like. I told them. “I am from Chicago. We have had a single party system for over 30 years, I know EXACTLY what it is like.”

But what I found was that the Africans are no more corrupt than anywhere else.  It’s the same where ever you go—except in the USA, the government employees often use legal loopholes to  steal.

Witness the front page story in The Chicago Tribune June 22, 2012, on how Craig Bazzani, a University of Illinois administrator– a vice president of business & finance who RETIRED IN 2002—managed to increase his  $300,000+ pension by about $42,ooo due to a legal strategy.  Well, it wasn’t illegal.  Unethical?  Obviously, the  Trib dances around this.  But that is what the reporters infer. The gist is that Bazzani was able to increase his pension by using a formula intended for police & fire personnel.  A change  in the state law allowed those in supervisory positions to  be eligible to  extra pension benefits. We generally call it double dipping.

Don’t forget, our state & federal legislators are also  entitled to  pensions based on their full pay at retirement (or when they get unelected), and  also, if they had other government positions, collect that pension as well. No vesting period for  politicians.  You work a day, you get a full pension.

&—this is why we can’t afford a ‘single payer’ health care system like other developed countries. What? European Union countries are bankrupt because of fee medical care?  No, European countries are bankrupt because their politicians also have bled the system—& in Greece, add to it that they don’t collect  property taxes from the  well heeled.

It’s great that we have a free press,. & that reporters have reported on this. Now what?  How do we go about changing this? Can we?  I mean, we can all try to emigrate to Norway & Sweden. but we object to how high they tax everyone, & the cost of living. Where can we go?

In her last book,  The Challenge for Africa, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai addressed the problem of lack of government transparency &  respect for rule of law, and what Mo Ibrahim is doing to entice  heads of state in Africa to leave peacefully, honorably, and with dignity.  The reason Dr. Ibrahim  set up the award is because Africans generally don’t get pensions, or speaking engagements, or  write books.  They have no way to support themselves in retirement, and the  award  is an incentive to not hold on to power. So far, it hasn’t been that successful, and  some years it is not awarded.  But that is not  cogent to  my point.

Our politicians have enormous chutzpah, as do the employees  of our governments.  They have no incentive to not bankrupt the system, as they are making more money than they know what to do with.  They can gamble it away, invest in risky schemes,  award lavish gifts to family & church.  it’s their money.

Michal Lewis, the writer, has addressed  what has happened in California: that  local governments are collapsing. Soon, Illinois will follow.  Our politicians do not care, and have no incentive to care.  It would take reporters reporting on their  ineptitude  and sleaze every day.  Meanwhile  our governments will be bankrupt before the system is fixed.

The Spoiled dog, and Why Obedience Training Works

June 22, 2012

I had started to write about  how to find a facility:  dog groomer, dog day care, or kennel, or even  someone who boards & cares for dogs in their home, but I  immediately realized the problem many people have, which they tend to discount. That problem is….their dog is spoiled.

I know how easy it is to spoil a dog.  I  have spoiled a few.  In my quest to understand why my dog was unhappy (I can read body language and  can tell when a dog  wants something ) I have indulged bad behavior.  I have also trained/behavior shaped many dogs.  One of my clients said a very important thing to me which I have never forgotten. She had 2 large dogs, and had acquired a toy breed. She said, “Do not allow behavior in a small dog that you would not allow in a large dog.”  No kidding.  Most owners would not allow a large dog to bark incessantly and demand being held or picked up, or annoy the neighbors. Most would not allow a large dog to lunge at other dogs.  Yet they seem to find  ratty behavior cute in a small dog.

I  have worked in several facilities that offer dog daycare.  These days, the French Bulldogs & the Bostons are worse trouble makers in  og packs than Pit Bulls,. I am speaking in generalities, but it is a fact that they are always harassing other dogs. They might want to play, but they are not acting playful…they are acting aggressive.

That is a problem.

Another problem is the dog who refuses to be confined. Fact—dogs are den animals. They are born seeking places that are confined to sleep. This is the value of a dog crate.  Yet, people, being anthropomorphic and assigning human emotions to their dogs—-purposely break this instinctive behavior.  Some dogs, when they move to a new home, and have gotten used to being cuddled, will whine when they are confined. What do owners do? They don’t want their little precious to suffer…so they reward bad behavior by taking the dog out of the crate and cuddling the dog. Thus the dog learns to not find his own comfort in his own place.  Then, the dog gets frantic if confined at a groomer’s or in a kennel. &, it seems not to matter how large the crate is.  If the dog can see barriers beyond the crate, he wants to be loose wandering the perimeter.   The thing is…the dog never relaxes.  He paces until he becomes exhausted & passes out. This is not healthy.

I tell my clients to think this through:  if their dog ever has to be confined for a medical reason, the dog will be so stressed out it will never heal. What kind of favor are you doing your dog when you don’t recognize this?

There is a TV show that plays in America called Supernanny.  It is about families who have way too many children to manage. They indulge the children—spoil them  —let them get out of control, and they then need an outsider to insist THEY—the parents—-follow through on discipline.  &, indeed, half the show is showing how long it takes the parents to follow through.  People make excuses for why they do not follow through.

So, let me put it to you in a way that will seem harsh, but  check it out:  spoiling does not mean pampering .  It means wrecking. It means breaking. It means destroying.  It is not cute. It is dangerous.

If you want to  change the dynamic, and  allow your dog to be comfortable, calm, and  not get stressed, you are going to start on the sit/stay, and  first work up to  30 seconds, then, 1 minute, them 3 minutes….and you are going to be at least 6 feet away from the dog, and work up to  being 20 feet away from the dog.  Then,  you are going to work on a

down/stay,  start for 30 seconds, & work up to 5 minutes, standing farther and farther away from your dog.  Every time the dog breaks the sit or stay, you must stqrt over, and if your dog can’t do  30 seconds, you have to keep at it  until he can, before moving on.

Why does this work with the spoiled dog that has separation anxiety?  He has to concentrate —first—on not moving, and gradually he sees he won’t  die  if he isn’t flued to you, and can  handle  being alone….because ultimately, you are goi9ng to work on leaving him in a down stay for  5 minutes and leave the room.

How long will it take?  Believe me—the first 30 seconds are going to take a lot of repetitions.  You don’t see Justin Silver, who hosts  Dogs in the City doing all the repetitions, but it works.

Now, you can’t do just one thing. You have to get out of the mindset of  spoiling the dog, and into the mindset of being in charge and not indulging bad behavior. Good luck. Find a mentor who has successfully trained a dog!

A Drug Addict in the Family

June 13, 2012

Although the foxes watching the henhouse (Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers) would have you believe that drug addiction is a disease, it is not contagious, like Measles. Nor is it a neurological disorder, like autism.

It is a disease of debauchery and  immaturity.  Of choosing pleasure over responsibility.  We’ve known for decades how people become addicted. We also know you do not become addicted  using a drug just once.  People choose hedonism. They choose to not be responsible, not think of others, and get high. This is why highly educated people become drug addicts.  It has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with personality.  It is a user justifying, saying, “I have no responsibilities today.  I’d rather get high than do anything else”.

And,  even though they know that at some point, there in no more high, just the prevention of pain…they do it.  Of course, they regret it, but by the time they realize what they’ve done, it is too late.

For the rest of us, it is  emotional pain, disappointment, and dealing with someone you loved actually  having become a different person.  Usually,  every family has at least  1 ‘do-gooder’…the co-dependent, who can’t resist bailing out the addict from the messes he’s gotten into again and again.

One of my relative, who happens to have a good background in chemistry and  pharmacy, chose to become a drug addict. He knew exactly how addiction works, and made the choice to do what he had to do to become an addict.  He has no interest in making the world a better place, it’s all about him, and always has been. He also knew when he made the time to become addicted, there was no turning back.  His brain chemistry would be permanently changed.  Yet, this is what he chose to do.

When I got out of grad school, I interviews with an agency that treated drug addicts.  They got their money from the state. I asked about their success rate, & was told that  it was about 35%  of people clean for 5 years.  Nobody followed drug addicts longer than that.

How did they manage to ‘treat’ addicts? Counseling.  All talk therapy. Nobody telling them to get a job on a farm & do hard labor, or go to a country where  English is not spoken & volunteer.  just  talk.

So, if you want to get yourself ensnared with this type of person, go right ahead.  I don’t think its’ any accomplishment when a celebrity has been clean for X number of years  when they  made everyone  change  their lives  to accommodate them.  However, I don’t think our drug policy  has worked, and I feel that drugs should be legal, jail should be taken out of the equation…because the added problem is  thugs fighting over  selling turf, and the violence that goes with it.  This is almost a bigger problem for me than knowing a relative or close friend might steal from me to support a habit.

Dog Collars: Prong/spile/buckle/choke/Martingale…& Harnesses

June 7, 2012

As a groomer, I see dogs wearing all sorts of contraptions, and more and more, I see them in harnesses.  I know that people don’t want to hurt their dogs, but, unless your dog has a serious diagnosed trachea problems and/or is a guide or tracking dog, harnesses are the wrong choice for most dogs.

I’ll get into why they are so wrong, but let’s start with the various choices and the right choices.  Now that we know  what humane training methods are and that you don’t have to  choke your dog to get his attention—that you can get the dog to follow a toy or a treat, chokes are generally a bad choice for every day wear.  Virtually all groomers  know of someone whose dog got stuck in the collar. The collar was too loose, and the links got stuck in the dog’s teeth, or got hung up on a fence or on furniture, and some dogs strangled.  IT’S A TRAINING COLLAR.  But, like the prong/spike, people leave them on their dogs, use them incorrectly, and hurt their dogs.

Buckle collars, which you can adjust, attach a leash to, and leave tags on, are generally excellent choices.  Now, I know many dogs are micro-chipped with the owners contact info (a very good idea), but if your dog becomes loose & is found, many people don’t know to take the dog to be scanned for a chip, or don’t have time. A tag with owner contact info (in fact, a tag that include’s a friend’s or groomer’s phone number as well) is what most people look for.

Sighthound owners use MARTINGALE style collars.  I feel these are excellent for most dogs, as they tighten up from both sides &  not like a choke.  But the dog can’t  back out of the collar if it is properly fitted.  Premier makes an excellent,  cheap line of Martingales, and there are many manufacturers you can find on line.  I noticed that Justin Silver, the dog trainer on Dogs in the City, suggested that  his client with the Bulldog take the dog out of the harness, and use the Martingale, with immediate success.

People tell me they use harnesses because their dogs pull.  Well, if your dog is a Seeing Eye or Guide Dog, or a tracking dog, you WANT your dog to pull without being constrained.  Why would you want your pet dog to be able to pull you around? This not only makes no sense at all, it creates a bad dynamic.

What I see happening is dogs wearing harnesses,  out of control because they haven’t received any obedience training, but who want their people to be leaders, are put in the position of being a leader…but the dog doesn’t want to be a leader, so he pulls wherever his ‘instinct’ (or nose) tells him to go. The owner pulls back, but the  dog’s instinct is telling him to pull away, and the dog becomes even more neurotic than he would be otherwise.  I see this all the time, and the owners tell me the dog is hyper active, or sensitive, or crazy….but I never have any problem with the dog. My body language tells the dog I am in charge, and he can relax.  No joke.

If the dog pulls,and you don’t want to do formal dog training (not sure why you would say you love your dog, but not want to learn  how to communicate with the dog….), a Halti or Gentle Leader, bridle type  head harnesses, works extremely well with most breeds—at least the dogs that aren’t bracheocephalic (with the pushed in faces).

Here’s the thing:  dog ownership is not a democracy.  In nature, there is a pecking order. If you are not going to choose to be in charge  and be the leader, you force your dog to take control, and believe me, the dog does not want to be in charge. Too much responsibility for his little brain.

book review: The Journal of Best Practices, by David Finch

June 1, 2012

I guess it goes without saying that anyone who blogs is an egomaniac.  There. I’ve said it.  I automatically think that others would care about what I have to say.  It has occurred to me that  most people don’t care what I have to say, but I do have several posts up that have gotten over  1,000 hits each.Were they really read?  Not sure, but  I am sure that  people read the blogs & either sent the links to others, or  suggested the blog to others.  Of the 120 or so blog posts I have up, about 10  get  checked out every week, and  about 20 others get checked out when people research  obscure subject matter.

I start this post this way because, as I’ve said before,   I have Asperger’s Syndrome.  It’s high functioning autism.  I  am very good with concepts.  I am very articulate.  I’ve been called funny (when I am actually just telling the truth).  However, I’ve also been called strange,   unempathetic, and rude.  I will come right out and tell you what I really think.  I try to be considerate.  I try to think of others. I recognize my own  quirks and obsessions.  However, I am a girl. Female.  Culturally, we are taught/molded/shaped into thinking of others.

Men are  raised/molded/taught/shaped to be self-centered and expect women  to take care of the business of living & managing their  households for them,  As humorist Dave Barry stated in his review of this book, “Asperger’s Syndrome—a disorder that in some ways means ‘acting like a guy’….and will resonate with every guy whose wife ever asked him, “What were you THINKING?”

When I first heard of this book, I thought….could NOT be funny…but it is, actually, laugh out loud hilarious.  Finch is an excellent writer, and very perceptive.  He was just lucky his wife worked with children  who had autism, and found one of the Asperger’s tests online.Realizing the symptoms  described her husband to a T, she gave him the test, &  he passed with flying colors.  He had a name—a reason—-for being a jerk.    They were both lucky that Finch loved his wife enough to want to address his  immaturity, ego, and thoughtlessness enough to save their marriage.

We are all lucky that he chose to address the main issues that create tension in  households that regular folks without Asperger’s fight over:  household chores and being involved with child care.  And, we are lucky he  does so with humor and insight into what exactly he was spending time on instead of being involved with his family . Yep, we  Aspies are a funny bunch.

This book would be a great wedding gift  for any couple. I hope it becomes a best seller.  It will solve a lot of problems right off because it addresses the expectations and dynamics of families—indeed, any household where 2 or more  people live together.

The book was published in 2012 by Scribner/Simon & Schuster.  224 pages. I read it in 3 sittings, laughing out loud.