Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blogging the Dog Days Away

I'm getting the message that I should chill some.

My writing, email informs me, has gone to the dogs. Trophy Wife translates: "Chill Out". Actually and seriously, occupying oneself - myself - with Dawg has proven to be one of the best ways for me to chill out.
The photo of Ballou, above, was taken by Trophy Wife at the local Elings Park. (You have to click on it to fully appreciate it.)

Locally we enjoy three almost contiguous off-the-leash "bark parks". Elings, as well as the Douglas Preserve and
Hendry's Beach, are generous in acreage and variety, featuring an ample amount of undeveloped hilly paths, developed athletic fields, and beaches.

Running an athletic, spirited and trained dog off-leash in one of these surroundings is a lot like good blogging.
Your dog meets up with other friendly or not-so-friendly canines, and bounces-off, runs along with, or otherwise skirmishes. Give-and-take-and-go is the best way to describe it; and going on to smell and sniff out things that denote the canine news of the day.

Ritual and routine have a lot to do with it. Ballou never communicates to me what's she's read and learned.
She is no less communicative than Bando was before her, nor Schatze and Sienna before him. Dog and man are equally not communicative about their respective surfing and blogging, and who's to say which of us is more effective in our daily seeing of the big picture. However, it can be said that neither of the two of us is really 'blogged-out' when the day's blogging time runs out. Both of us want to rap with one more dog before turning away, back into our respective leashed worlds.

I have found that a daily romp of substantial length for man or dog in their respective spheres chills out both of them amicably. Civilizes both, actually.

Ballou went through a dry spell recently. 45 minutes - half way into a robust outing at Elings last month - I noticed her pausing to lick her front leg where she was missing about 1½ inches of skin.
Her vet was on our way home and she diagnosed it as a laceration rather than a bite. The wound was totally understandable as road rash because Ballou often moves faster than her legs can carry her. I have seen her crash and burn from down-slope face-plants. It's always ugly to witness, actually; kind of like the stock market crashing, as she is driven by 'irrational exuberance'.

As a consequence, Ballou had to be confined to her own yard and was only permitted a short leash on sedate walks around the hood.
But, worse, she also had to wear two Elizabethan cones, 24-7. Trophy Wife and I grew every bit as impatient as she.

Once I suffered an error of judgment. Very early on one morning, I allowed her off leash in the front yard. One nano second she was doing the wee-wee on top of the hedge and the next nano second she was gone a full 150 yards down the block after a cat. Covering that distance with her characteristic speed, Ballou resembled - with her two cones - a fifty-pound butterfly, flitting to and fro, maybe actually brushing the ground two or three times. But butterflies don't obey you; Ballou flew right back to me when I called.

I have been going through a dry spell recently myself.
It's a post-election slump. I am not alone. Without mentioning any names, I have noticed other of my blogging acquaintances have been affected differently. Some have become more shrill than ever; others seemingly aimless. In my case, it's like I've run out of things to say. I'm happy. After unhappily enduring the occupation of my country by the unconstitutional Bush and Cheney regime for the last eight years, I can finally anticipate liberation. I have less outrage to communicate. It's not that I no longer feel outrage; it's just that I don't feel expressing it does me much good. I also can't muster much effort as far as supervising our new President-Elect. It's like Bill Maher and my friend Mad Mike have commented: we are trying to prepare ourselves for living with a leader who is smarter than we are.


In the meantime, I am experiencing adjustment problems not unlike Ballou's. Last night at dinner with old friends from the 90's, I went off on the gentleman who had started to explain to me why he had voted for McCain. (I couldn't help it. The dude is such a slump.) Overbearing and boorish is how I would characterize my behavior - not unlike Republicans for the last eight years. 'Uncontrolled barking' is how Trophy Wife described it.

I get one chance to redeem myself tonight, dining with two more Republicans. If I don't improve, Trophy Wife says I'll be wearing a short leash, cones, and a bark collar.

November 22nd: A Day Which Lives in Infamy

Three assassinations mark the killing off of modern American Progressivism:
  • John F. Kennedy (22-Nov-1963)
  • Martin Luther King (4-Apr-1968)
  • Robert F. Kennedy (6-Jun-1968)
Gordon M. Goldstein, author of "Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam," writes in today's
Los Angeles Times that this day, 45 years ago, was
"was the single most significant day in the history of the Vietnam War."

In 1961, JFK had inherited from the Eisenhower administration an insignificant commitment in Indo China, limited to military supplies and advisors. A steady military supply of equipment from Hanoi coming down the Ho Chi Minh trail was designed to overthrow the Saigon regime and unify Vietnam and complete its national transition from a French colony.

During his first years in office, Kennedy's advisors pressured him to send in American ground troops. Civilian 'hawks', Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy steadily argued for American military intervention in the Vietnam civil war. According to Goldstein, they estimated that to prevent the national unification of Vietnam under the Communist regim in the north, it would take more than 200,000 pairs of American boots on the ground.

Goldstein weighs in on a controversial issue for historians. He believes that, had he lived, Jack Kennedy would have withdrawn from Vietnam early after winning re-election to a second term. To his advisors,

Kennedy was not receptive. Long before becoming president, he had spoken out in Congress against the disastrous French experience in Vietnam, citing it as a reason the U.S. should never fight a ground war there. In the summer of 1961, he said he had accepted the conclusion of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who counseled against a land war in Asia, insisting that even a million American infantry soldiers would not be sufficient to prevail. He would offer military aid and training to Saigon, but he would not authorize the dispatch of ground forces.

Over the three years of his presidency, Kennedy sometimes invoked hawkish rhetoric about Vietnam. He also increased the military advisors and training personnel there to roughly 16,000. But McNamara and Bundy both came to believe that Kennedy would not have Americanized the war -- even if the price was communism in South Vietnam.

Kennedy realized that the inability of the United States to shut down the Ho Chi Minh Trail -- the lines of infiltration and resupply from North Vietnam -- would make it impossible to defeat the insurgency. "Those trails are a built-in excuse for failure," Kennedy told an aide in the spring of 1962, "and a built-in argument for escalation." Kennedy was so dubious he declared to White House aide Michael Forrestal that the odds against defeating the Viet Cong were 100 to 1.

In early 1963, Kennedy told Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who opposed increased U.S. involvement in Vietnam, that he would begin withdrawing advisors from South Vietnam at the beginning of his second term in 1965. Kennedy disclosed the same plan to Roswell Gilpatric, his deputy secretary of Defense. But the tragedy in Dallas in November 1963 changed everything.

. . . . . If Kennedy had lived, he would have enjoyed enormous advantages in 1965. In a second term, Kennedy would have been invulnerable to the electorate. . . . He had established a firm practice of overruling his advisors when necessary. And he would have entered his final four years as the champion of the Cuban missile crisis, a national security accomplishment that would have dramatically strengthened his hand. Bundy retrospectively argued.
So he does not have to prove himself in Vietnam. He can cut the country's losses then. He can do it by refusing to make it an American war.
That Kennedy as commander in chief was not provided the opportunity to determine a different fate for the United States in Vietnam deepens the tragedy of his loss and also underscores his profound legacy, still richly relevant 45 years later. . . . .

Besides a profound sense of historical tragedy, what lessons can we draw from remembrance of how this trail of tears started 45 years ago today?