Saturday, July 28, 2007

Naïve and Irresponsible...

Barack Obama said Monday during the Democratic debate that he would meet during his first year in office with the leaders of Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and maybe a few other governments that I'm forgetting - governments whose leaders despise America, whose leaders may even sponsor terrorism. Obama tried to set up that proposed course of action as a contract to the failed foreign policies of President George W. Bush.

The press exploded with criticism of Obama for his statements. Hillary Clinton called the idea "naïve and irresponsible." And Clinton's criticism of Obama has changed the tone of the campaign.

Is Obama's proposal naïve and irresponsible? I'd say yes. And the contrast he's trying to set up doesn't work.

President Bush has had most of seven years now to come to terms with the rouge states of the world. It is no shame that he didn't have Kim Il Sung to dinner in 1991. But Bush's foreign policy in general has been characterized by stubborn refusal to ever change direction - a "don't confuse me with the facts" approach that says "we started out in this direction and if we keep going this direction we'll eventually get somewhere."

Hillary says that she doesn't want to be used for propaganda purposes. Those governments will make propaganda anyway. They will tell their people and their allies what they want, regardless of truth.

There is groundwork that has to be laid, though. And the idea that heads of state can meet on short notice without laying the groundwork for some sort of accomplishment is, well, naïve and irresponsible. Would it better than the reckless and stubborn policies of the Bush administration? Yes. It might even accidentally accomplish something; but any accomplishment would be largely accidental.

If Obama had said that he hoped to meet with such leaders in his first term, after laying the groundwork for some constructive dialogue, then the contrast would have worked.

Obama's mistake? He's in too much of a hurry. But changing course and entering into dialogue (even with North Korea's Kim Il Sung or Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) doesn't give away anything when the current course is not working.

A Trip to Dolly Sods, WV

On Wednesday (July 25), Cheryl and I went with her Dad (Benny) to one of his old stomping grounds, the Dolly Sods.

Benny looking for huckleberriesThe ridgeline road that runs through the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area crosses back and forth between Tucker County and Grant County, West Virginia. It sits at just under 4000 feet above sea level on the wind-swept plains on the Allegheny Plateau.

We arrived at Bear Rocks (3,954 feet) from the north by taking Jordon Run to Public Road 75 (PR75). We parked at the top of the hairpin turn, where Bear Rocks Trail starts. From there we walked southeast and looked for berries in the open space along the edge of the ridge there.

A huge variety of berries grow on the high plains of Dolly Sods. Locally, they get grouped together under the label "huckleberries." Among the berries that grow there: wild blueberries, chokeberries, black huckleberries, gooseberries, teaberries, and wild cranberries. I'm not a berry expert by any means, but my guess is the ripe berries we picked were a mix of black huckleberries and wild blueberries.

Cheryl and Benny crossing PR75The area where we first picked, southeast of PR75, ran along a steep slope that drops over 1000 feet in places down to Jordon Run. I suspect that we were above 4,000 feet for much of the 90 minutes or so that we picked berries on that side of PR75. The brush on that side of the road was high, perhaps knee deep in most places. The ground was sprinkled with large rocks. Walking was tedious because it was hard to see your feet, but there were no briars or thistles.

The yield on the southeast side of PR75 was disappointing. But the scenery was beautiful. We eventually crossed back over to the western side of PR75. Berries were thicker there and the brush was not quite as deep. In all we gathered about a gallon of berries between the three of us.

View from Bear Rocks area, looking eastOn the 25th of July, it was 62F degrees at noon at Bear Rocks when we parked and got out. The sky was overcast and a light drizzle eventually started. When we stopped picking berries it was down to 56F degrees. That was 3:30 in the afternoon...

We took the scenic route back home. We drove south on PR75 to where it hits PR19. There we went south and west to Lanesville. We took 32 past Canaan Valley and came home through Thomas.

The area is one of Appalachia's most beautiful places...

Monday, July 23, 2007

The New Dog...

We have a new dog.

I guess like everything else in life, the way we find a dog has been changed forever by the Internet. So we looked at dogs online at the websites of various animal shelters and humane societies in our general area.

The experience was frustrating and a little disheartening. We discovered that many of the organizations didn't update their listings often enough. We'd
  • Find a dog we were interested in

  • Email the group

  • Receive an email back that had been automatically generated and had an application form attached

  • And fill out the form and send it in

Three or four days later we'd get an email asking for some other information, or telling us the dog had already been adopted, or telling us that the dog had been moved to some other shelter/organization for reasons that were never made clear.

The worst locations had websites so out of date that they included contact phone numbers for volunteers who no longer worked for the shelter or humane society.

Our new dog, Wild ThangWe dealt with one county humane society where a woman told us they had the dog we'd seen online and that we could apply for it, but the animal might be shipped on to another adoption agency even if we wanted it. We found that confusing and, frankly, insulting. The same agency had a person who kept telling us that we couldn't expect better communication or service considering that she was really just a volunteer. When being a volunteer becomes an excuse for shoddy work or unprofessional behavior, in my mind it's time to stop volunteering....

In the couple of months that we spent looking for our new pet, we went inside five or six animal shelters and a couple of pet stores. Most, sadly, were run down concrete structures that smelled of dog piss, hidden on a back road.

We found our new pet online. The shelter, in Greeneville, Tennessee, had a phone number (not just an email address). We contacted them on July 18 and asked a few questions, then made the 120-mile trip down to see our new pet and decided to take her. The shelter had indoor/outdoor lots with chain link fence, a manicured lawn and picnic area, and a nice office. The people were warm and friendly.

Her name when she came to the Greene County Humane Society was Macy. She answers to that, but I call her Wild Thang most of the time.

One of the biggest advantages of the shelter in Greenville was that Macy had already been spade and had her shots. All we had to do was reimburse those costs and then take our new pet. Many of the shelters don't carry out those procedures until after someone adopts the pet, and that creates a waiting period and a requirement that the new owner make the trip to the shelter twice.

So far we really enjoy Macy. More about her later...