26 June 2008

Democracy is Under Attack

Capitalism is under attack

June 25, 2008

Rutland Herald

In response to Mr. Zivitz's letter about offshore oil belonging to us, yes, it is socialism, and last time I checked that is a failed system.

Our capitalist system has proved itself far superior. The thought of our government running an oil company — just imagine how screwed up that would be. I could see it now, higher prices at the pump and an unreliable supply.

This country's capitalist system is under attack everywhere you look. What's scary is the attack is from within. Every big company is demonized, and profit is looked at as taking advantage of the people. At this rate, we'll be the People's Republic of the U.S. soon.


Dear Mr. Jackson, you suggest that U.S. citizens are more and more often “attacking” capitalism, which you also suggest is the Great Building Block in the foundation of our country. You show proof of these attacks by pointing out how “big” companies are demonized and “profit is looked at as taking advantage of the people.” I believe your ideas stem from confusion regarding whether we are a democratic nation or a capitalist one. Let me help you. We are a democratic nation first and foremost. We have grown into a capitalist nation, but we remain a democracy. And that should always come first.

In a democracy we are encouraged to explore, investigate, question, judge, and voice our opinions about our leaders, representatives and legislatures. When our leaders take and spend our money in ways we consider foolish, we protest. We expect transparency from our democratically elected government. We also expect to be able to change what we perceive as problems.

Capitalism, however, works very differently. Most of these “big” companies work hard to be non-transparent, to hide their inner workings from us. It takes much research to find out what is done with our money, after we give it to a capitalist company. So, when we discover that the CEO of that company is receiving a phenomenally large salary and benefits package, of course we will be annoyed. And of course we will work to change it. That’s what we’re expected to do.

If we’re now realizing we aren’t quite as enamoured of strict capitalism as we thought, then perhaps capitalism needs to change. As I said before, Democracy comes before capitalism, which means capitalism will need to change to fit our Democracy because the Democracy is not going to change to serve capitalism.

06 June 2008

A more rational rebuttal

It is not a question of what that person's life is worth that I don't know, it is a question of whether their life is worth more than mine or my husband's to me? Because that is what it comes down to, do we have to work ourselves into an early death to fund every single need everyone in the country has?

The main problem with this belief is what happens when you extrapolate it out to every single person. What if every person believed this? What if only a simple majority of people believed this? Very simply, it means that you are worth less. As is your husband, and any children you may have. Your parents, your friends, your loved ones. You're all worth less. Worth less than who? Than me and my loved ones, of course. Because if I believed the same as you, the only ones worth my resources are those I love. And I can't possibly love everyone.

Furthermore, if you extrapolate this belief to the other "welfare" programs our taxes cover it means I'm not going to pay for the education of you or your children, nor can you drive on my roads, use my public library, or benefit from my personal police force, fire department or ambulance service. Because I'm working much too hard to have to share my earnings with anybody other than my loved ones. Damn the poor and their ignorant inability to pull themselves up by their boot straps. And I would just like to point out that there are those who "abuse" each of these systems. There are children who are truant more often than not, and yet draw tax payer dollars for that school. There are those who leave smoldering cigarrettes in a trash can or couch and end up burning down the house. Should we let that house burn down simply because the person made a bad decision? Should we ignore all the nearby houses that might also burn down? Do we just chalk it all up to bad decisions and walk away feeling snug in our belief that the same could never happen to us because we're smart enough to have made the good decision to not smoke?

Poor health care drags down more than just the person actually suffering from ill health. It drags down the spouse who shares fiscal responsibilities. It drags down the parents trying to help out. It drags down the children who are then without the many benefits money can bring. Really, it is not that unlike a burning building.

I think we are also failing to consider a "cost" in this whole analysis. What about the "cost" of losing an able bodied person from society? If he/she had been healthy, what contribution might he/she have made? Perhaps tutored a child? Been a big brother/big sister? Donated money to help fund the arts? Might that child whose parents were unable to afford the summer camps for science have found a break through in cancer research? What are we giving up when we give up on that person? There is no way to quantify it except to look around you at all those people who have contributed in meaningful ways to our society and just imagine if one of those people had been stuck with a major health problem and no insurance in our society. What might we have lost?

To me, your statement sort of sounds like these 3rd world countries we hear so much about. You know, those ones we lament about. The places we arrogantly believe would be saved by democracy and a free market. In those countries, the only kids who get an education are those with parents rich enough to afford the private schools. The only places with good infrastructure are where the rich want to be able to go, or need to be able to move their goods. The only folks immune from violence and thievery are those who can afford personal body guards or even a small army.

Let's be honest, it's not as if I'm (or we're) asking you to provide a Wii game for every household, or a new car for every 16 year old. I don't think anybody is begging the gov't for a big screen HD tv, or a brand new laptop. We just want to ensure that every citizen has access to and can afford treatment of health problems. And we'd like to prevent as many of these problems as possible. I truly believe we would have a healthier, more productive and happier society if each person was able to receive treatment for illness in an effective and timely manner.

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

Because that is what it comes down to, do we have to work ourselves into an early death to fund every single need everyone in the country has? The answer to that is no, that person is not worth that much to me and no we will not continue to work at the pace we are to earn what we are in order to pay more taxes to support more welfare programs.

But, it’s ok for me to work myself into an early grave so that I can afford health care for myself? It’s ok for one of my friends to put herself tens of thousands of dollars in debt doing the drug research that is providing you with good health care? (Do you know how much work grad students do in the research field? Practically for free.) See, this is what bugs me about this discussion. The assumption that I’m not working hard and I’m just living off your taxes and your hardwork. Guess what, I work my ass off everyday. And I always have. I don’t want your hand outs. I don’t want your charity. I just want to be able to go to the Dr when I’m sick, and get regular health check ups to make sure I don’t end up with the diabetes that every single person on my father’s side of the family has. (I can promise you that letting me get preventative care now will be a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for my care when I’m a diabetic and on a gov’t funded health care system because I’m so sick I can’t work.) I just want to be able to live healthy and happy. And that includes not having to work 10-12 hours a day 6-7 days a week. I have a full time job. I have a BA. I even have a fancy-schmancy title: department Manager. I make well below the living wage. The living wage around here (calculated by me before the hike in fuel prices) is about $12.50 per hour. And when I say living wage, that’s what I mean. That’s the average amount of money a single person needs to earn to be able to live. That’s rent (on an average 1 bedroom apt), heating fuel, electricity, phone, gas, food, car insurance, college loans. You’ll notice I didn’t figure in a car loan (because I’m smart enough to not get a car I can’t afford), nor internet access, nor cable tv, nor going out to eat once a month, or renting a movie, or buying a new pair of shoes, or any of the myriad of things that make a life. Oh, but I did include a pet because the stress relief is key. Guess what I make. $10.60 per hour. In order for me to afford to live, I would need to work my full time job (38 hours per week, with a set, but constantly changing schedule that already eats up 1 weeknight and every other weekend nights) plus another part time job. I’ve done this, and it is not a healthy way to live. I still barely made enough to pay my bills, I was constantly tired, over stressed and permanently sick. And I still couldn’t afford to go to the dr even though I had insurance. How can you possibly consider this a system that works? It doesn’t. It’s a simple fact. This system does not work.

The thing is, nobody has to stay at a low income job. You don't even have to go to school to move up from low income, you just have to keep a job for long enough to move up in your position there. Which brings up why I hate it that they keep raising the minimum wage. The only people this really benefits is the people who skip from menial job to menial job and have no desire to ever do anything better. It hurts small business. But that's another arguement (sic).

I’m sorry, but I find this deeply offensive. You think I’m choosing to stay at a low paying job? Do you think I really have that many other options? Seriously? And to suggest that education is not necessary is the most absurd thing I’ve heard. I guess I shouldn’t have wasted my time going to college. I could have started out as a school janitor and worked my way up to superintendent in no time, right? Because the higher paid positions rarely require further training, education, or skills. As a further example, I did exactly what you’re talking about. I started out as a part-time menial laborer. I helped put together the store I’m currently working in. I helped put in the shelving, set all the displays, put out product. I was lucky enough to be kept on as a peon cashier. Quickly moved up to a part time “titled” position. Then earned a full time “titled” position. Within 10 months of starting with this company I earned the position I currently have. Perhaps you’ll recall what my current wages are. And I’ve had my 1 year anniversary with raise. It was about 3%. That’s right, we’re talking a whopping 43 cents (give or take a penny). But, I’m sure if I just stay with this company long enough I’ll be just fine. Nevermind that they screwed me out of my health insurance.

Or, I could use the example of my previous job. Where I worked for 3 years, starting as a part time phone rep, and working my way up (rather quickly) to a full time full customer service rep. And even though I received glowing reviews, always learned all my tasks quickly and fully, worked hard, had near perfect attendance, and continually sought more responsibilities, management cut me off. Wouldn’t let me move up any further. Never saw my application for a higher position. When I quit that job I was earning a little less than what I’m currently earning. So, yes, the idea that you just have to stay with a company long enough and you’ll work your way up is perfectly valid.

Yes, I have qualms about putting the gov’t in charge of a health care system. Yes, I worry about those who will abuse the system. No, I don’t think we’re going to have a quick fix, or a miraculous cure. But, the status quo isn’t working. It hasn’t been working. It’s not going to start working. Staying with the current system just because you’re scared of the alternative doesn’t make sense.

03 June 2008

The age old question: Who am I?

I’ve been contemplating my online presence lately. The absolute first thing known about me online is my name. Before a reader can discover I’m a dog loving, people hating, sarcastic cynic, they see my name. Which gives them an immediate clue about me, might even cause them to greet me with some suspicion. That’s what it was intended to do. My online name has stood me well over the years. That’s who I’ve been online almost as long as I’ve been online. Lately, though, I’ve been embracing a new and different name. One with a completely different message. It’s a sad thing. I have a major attachment to my name, a sort of nostalgia about it. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up.

Aside from my online name, who am I? What is my online presence, and how do people perceive me? More importantly, how easy or difficult is it for someone to put me together, despite my disparate presence. In some ways it is easy to track me down online. I just told you that I’ve used the same name for years. Practically everything I’ve posted online has been under this name. Go ahead, google me, see what comes up. Just by following my comments and postings you can get a pretty good idea of what my interests are. You can’t, however, find out many truly personal details about me. Which is as it should be, as far as I’m concerned. I work hard to keep it that way. As you can guess, I frequently contemplate all this. Because my online presence is so separate from my real life presence, those who know me online more than likely would never know how to find any information if I ever disappeared. I’ve seriously considered, and fully intend to, create a list of websites and appropriate posts for someone to take care of, should anything ever happen to me. By which I don’t mean I die in a car crash this afternoon; I simply mean if I ended up extremely sick, or injured, or yes, in the hospital, there are online communities who should be informed.

What I less often contemplate is what conclusions could be drawn about myself based solely on my online presence. This idea was brought to my attention by a blog I recently read that proposed a very interesting history writing assignment. http://beyond-school.org/2008/05/24/doing-history-with-web-legacies/ As someone who has studied history, and done research with primary documents, I have often lamented the fact that today we so rarely write letters or correspond in ways that can be easily saved for posterity. I have often thought that with our new online world, so much of who we are will be lost because it is ephemeral. I’ve never thought of it from the angle provided in that assignment. It’s quite fascinating.

So, now that you know my entire online history is available at the touch of a button (or click of a mouse), and I’ve gone ahead and told you to google me, perhaps you’d like to fulfill that assignment and help me figure out who I am.

02 June 2008

The right candidate

Can you imagine a candidate who was asked, “and Mr. X, what about Gay Marriage?” and responded, jokingly, “Well, I actually haven’t reached that chapter in my Democratic Party Candidate hand book, so I’ll have to get back to you. No, seriously, I personally support Gay Marriage. I see no logical reason that homosexuals should not be allowed to marry. However, I’m struggling with this issue as a candidate. Is it right for me to enforce this belief upon the entire country? Is it wrong to with hold such a basic right from so many people. I understand that this is extremely personal for many people. I would remind you, though, that it is infinitely more personal for those homosexuals who are currently in a committed relationship that cannot be legally defined, than it is for those who are not in that position. I would ask everybody to keep that in mind as we discuss this issue. As I said, I am still formulating my thoughts on this subject.” Wouldn’t that be an amazing discussion. I’d like to think that conversation is possible.

Even better would be a candidate who was willing to candidly discuss the logic and arguments behind a contentious issue, such as flag burning. Perhaps such a candidate would actually explore the underlying assumptions behind the belief. Calmly, politely, open mindedly ask those who are against flag burning to explain why. Keep digging until you had a full, logical, thought out answer. Just stopping at the answer that it is anti-american to burn the flag, or unpatriotic, fails to explore the full belief. Once you have a fully thought out argument, apply the principals to other areas of life. Challenge the person to truly believe what they believe. This is something that we as a society consistently fail to do. We do not fully explore what we believe and we end up holding conflicting beliefs. If a person cannot fully explain why they think something, then perhaps that means they need to explore their belief more thoroughly to make sure that’s what they really believe. And if you don’t even know that you hold conflicting beliefs, you can never explore them.


Deceive the people, manipulate the people, ignore the people

Despite the “of the people, by the people, for the people” upon which our country is supposedly founded, we’ve given it up. We gave it up as soon as we started depending on political parties to make our decisions. Just look at the primary system. We get to go out and voice our opinion on who we want as the candidate. Then the “Father Figure” DNC takes our opinions under consideration, but makes sure there is wiggle room by granting these “super delegates” It is all based on the, unfortunately all too true, assumption that U.S. citizens aren’t smart enough to make the right choice. The accusations of elitism have been flung repeatedly at Obama, but nobody seems to mention the inherent elitism of a system that doesn’t even trust our ability as a society to make a decision. However, despite my agreement that the general populace of our country is uninformed and possibly unable to make an intelligent decision, I am very much against any system that over rides their opinions because of that. Instead of disenfranchising them, we should be actively working to inform the uninformed so that they can make an intelligent decision. And if that decision is different than mine, then so be it.

And what is the right decision? And for who? For the party? For the country? Which is more important? I’d like to think that we as a society could choose a candidate who is right for the country, even if that candidate isn’t right for one of the parties. When we look at the political process as strictly an Us vs Them competition, we do a great injustice to our country as a whole. I find it very likely that the best candidate for any given office is not the best candidate for the party. Not all Democrats are right and not all Republicans are wrong. But, until we admit that and work within a construct based upon that idea we’re never really going to be able to “reach across the aisle” and do what is best for the country. There will always be deep seated, strong, fundamental differences of opinion on what is the best path forward for our country and what is the best way to follow that path. We won’t all agree. We’re not supposed to. But, we can’t even begin to think about what is best for the country, when we are so busy worrying about what is best for a particular party. When you’re permanently focused on the party, and the power of the party, then you are, by definition, not focused on the country. They’re not the same thing. The US is not the Republican Party and it’s not the Democratic Party. It’s the US.

Furthermore, what kind of BS is this stupidity where you have to be a registered member of the party to vote. Is the Democratic Party that unwilling to accept support from anyone outside the party? Is my support of and belief in a Democratic candidate lessened simply because I’m not registered as a Democrat? Does the Democratic Party truly believe that they are better off without my vote? Or does the Democratic Party truly believe that it is essential that all Democratic voters willingly adhere to all tenets of the Democratic Party platform? Must I be so enamoured of the Democratic Party, and all it’s ideas and programs and efforts, that I be registered as a Democrat? And what if I’m not? What if I agree with some aspects of the Party but not others? What if I support candidate A in race X, but not candidate B in race Y? Am I thus unimportant and my vote not necessary? That’s what the Democratic Party is saying when it bans non registered Democrats from voting in the primary. There also seems to be an underlying assumption that you should vote a straight ticket, no? Otherwise why would I need to be a registered Democrat? Is it such a scary idea to think that I might vote for a Democrat in one race, a Progressive in the second, and *gasp* a Republican in the third? How else would my state end up with a solidly Democratic Legislature and a Republican Governor for a third time? I’m greatful that I live in a state where I do not have to register for a particular party to participate in that party’s presidential primary.

While we’re discussing this registered Democrat phenomenon, I find it extremely ironic that the Democratic party is touting the fact that so many Republicans are supposedly switching parties to vote for Obama. At the same time, in many states you must be a registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary. I guess that crossed party lines vote isn’t as important as they make it out to be, considering they are so insistent on getting registered Democrats. I just find it totally mind boggling that we are so caught up in this party nonsense. A candidate is a candidate is a candidate. Some are good, some are bad. Some are better and one is the best. Vote for the best one. Make a logical choice based on the things you hold to be most important and the candidate who will best address those issues. Don’t just depend on the party label the candidate happens to be wearing. I can tell you from experience, there are times when a flaming socialist is the best candidate and gets the most done. And there are times when the Democratic party needs to be smart enough to not run a candidate if they really want the best candidate to win.

01 June 2008

And you wonder why I disbelieve in your God?


So the first question is whether or not I’ve ever lied. Of course I have. I do not think there is a person on earth who has not lied. Even if you have never, ever lied since you were able to understand the concept of lying (yeah, right), you probably lied before you were old enough to understand. I don’t see this quiz quibbling over whether or not you understood the concept when you committed the crime, so you’re a liar. After you answer the 3rd question you can be fairly sure that the purpose of this quiz is to take the harshest position possible so you might as well accuse a 3 year old of being a liar. So, yes, I’ve lied. I will more than likely continue lying throughout my life because there are simply times when telling the truth is not a good idea.

According to the 2nd question, I’m a thief. Yes, I have taken things which were not mine. It’s pretty hard not to. Really, is there anything on this planet that can truly belong to me? Although, if I follow that logic, then nothing belongs to anybody else either, in which case I cannot take something from somebody else. Even though I can take something that doesn’t belong to me. Even if I use the more traditional logic, if I use a pen to sign a credit card slip and then accidentally forget to give it back, I have stolen. Hardly a hardened criminal, but I guess your God has high standards.

Question 3 deals with a basic aspect of being human: sexual interest. Of course, the test calls this lust. Because sexual interest is just human and lust is just evil. Have I ever, in my entire 26 years of existence, had sexual interest in another person. Any other person. The test doesn’t ask whether the person I’m lusting is my spouse. Heck, the test doesn’t even ask if I’m married. Simply have I ever lusted after another person. Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I’ve lusted after another person. Are you seriously asking if I survived the hormones of maturing and didn’t experience them? Are you seriously asking if I ever actually was alive? Because you’d have to be dead to not experience lust for another person. And I can only imagine how the test would judge you if your only experience with lust was for yourself. I get the impression that wouldn’t help my image. Now according to the test, I’m an adulterer. Nevermind the fact that I’m not married. I’m an adulterer. Now, I hate to be blunt with you, but if this stupid test is going to accuse me of being an adulterer for simply having a sexual interest in a person you can bet I’m going to go right ahead and act on those thoughts. If I’m going to be slammed with the full judgement, then I’m going to deserve the full judgement.

Question 5 equates anger with murder. Oddly enough, the title of this question is hate. Not anger, hate. The biblical quote discusses anger, the question asks about anger, but it is titled hate. Is someone confused? Someone must be. To equate anger with an act of murder is absolutely absurd. Can you just see some perfectly calm mother telling her irate 4 year old, “sweety, you really shouldn’t get angry at me for asking you to pick up your toys. Don’t you know that if you get angry with me you’re murdering me? You don’t want to murder mommy, do you?” I can also just imagine the mental issues that kid would have as an adult. Can you see him on the shrink’s couch, “I killed my mother. Over and over and over again. I killed her. Why? Why did I do that? I was such a horrible child. I am such a horrible person. I don’t deserve to live; I killed my mother.” Even better, that grown up child walks into confession and says, “This weekend I killed my mother and younger brother. And then I went down to the gas station and ended up killing the cashier.” I wonder if they coach priests on what to say to that kind of confession.

According to Question 6 I’m a blasphemer. If you think this test is the first time I’ve ever been labeled a blasphemer then you’re clueless. That is a foregone conclusion. And it is hardly offensive, despite the cartoon picture of a royally pissed off dude. As if this question is the most offensive thing you’ve suggested so far.

Now the questions are just dumb. Number 7: have I taken God’s name in vain? Yup. But, I’ll be perfectly honest I’ve been trying much much harder not to do so. Frankly, it feels kind of stupid to use God’s name in vain when I don’t even believe in God. I’m trying to stop. I’m doing pretty well.

Now the little quiz is giving me a lesson in logic (really, who needs the lesson here?), trying to help me see that according to the quotes this test has used I am a lying, thieving, lusting, murdering, bad person. Not only that, but now the test wants me to admit my guilt. I have to actually click the little words that say, “I’m guilty.” If I try to get out of it by clicking on the “not guilty” link, I get a bunch of fun bible quotes telling me that everybody is guilty. That’s all, pure and simply everybody is guilty. Then why did you make me answer all these stupid questions if you already know I am?

Finally, I get to decide whether I’m going to heaven or hell. I get another fun bible quote to help me make that decision. This fun bible quote tells me all murderers, thieves, liars, and adulterers go to hell. So, do I think I’m going to hell or not? I seem to remember this nifty “out” for the whole hell thing if I confess my sins, or accept Jesus into my life, or some other stupidity. But, that’s not mentioned here, so I guess I can only conclude that I’m going to hell. If I think I’m going to heaven based on those other things I’ve been told about heaven and hell, then I get more bible quotes about how I can’t be exempt from judgement because God can’t allow such horrible people into heaven. When I still maintain I’m going to heaven, I get yet another fun bible quote (you know, these quotes really aren’t much fun anymore) equating me with a rapist. Awesome, now I’m a rapist. If this little test is supposed to be helping me think more of God, it’s not really helping.

Oh, here we go, if I just admit that I’m going to hell I get the fun hope message. God is hope, and even though I’m totally guilty and deserve to go to jail I don’t have to. So, after just telling me that any human judge who let a guilty rapist go free would be a corrupt judge, and that God cannot be a corrupt judge and thus can only let me go to hell, now I’m supposed to believe that God actually would let me “go free” to heaven? Seriously? What happened to little lesson in logic, because this does not follow any logic I know.

And, finally, a lesson in the gospels where Jesus is equated with a parachute. I’m supposed to trust Jesus the way I would trust a parachute. Except, I could inspect that parachute and make sure there aren’t any holes or tears or weak fibers. I could make sure it was packed in a way that allows it to properly expand as it is supposed to. I can’t inspect Jesus like that; kinda makes it hard for me to trust him. Besides, I don’t really feel comfortable forcing God to be that “corrupt judge allowing the guilty rapist to go free” just for little ol’ me. Especially considering how guilty I am. Furthermore, I’m more than a little offended myself that simply being human (lust and anger) are enough to sentence me to hell. Lying, stealing, and blaspheming I can understand. Ok, no I can’t fully understand, but at least they make more sense than the lust and anger.

Oh, and even if I admit right from the beginning that I know I’m not a good person, the test still insists that I continue so that I can find out why I’m not a good person. You know, I’m beginning to get the distinct impression that those who hold these beliefs are either sadists, masochists, or both. They obviously enjoy pain: giving it, causing it, receiving it. Pain, pain, pain. It’s all about pain.

...for Dummies

Just because you read it in a book a hundred years ago does not mean it is true. Just because you read it in a dog training book does not mean you should apply it to every dog. Just because you think it is a method that is working well, does not mean you have the slightest clue about dog training.

My mother, the all-knowing dog trainer. Yeah, right. Countless years ago when we adopted a Golden Retriever puppy, my mother ended up with a couple of dog training books to aid our transition to a household with a well trained dog. It was hardly her first dog, or our first dog as a family. However, she'd never been quite satisfied with the training results of previous dogs. Hence, the training books. One of the books gave a suggestion that she has been using ever since. Fill a tin can with pennies or small rocks, tape the top shut, and then shake the can, or even throw it at the dog, whenever the dog is doing something you don't like. Is he sniffing along the edge of the counter? Shake the penny can. Is he inching his way into the forbidden dining room? Shake the penny can. As I recall, this seemed to work for the golden retriever we had for so many years. It bothered her enough to stop the behavior without traumatizing her. Of course, she was a very laid back dog. We don't have the golden anymore, instead I have a German Shepherd. A GSD who is in no way laid back. He is a moose. He makes up his own rules and then breaks them at will. He is more than handful. At the same time, he is a generally well behaved dog, with a few exceptions.

He has never understood the no dogs in the dining room rule. Then again, we have never truly enforced it. He thinks the rule is more along the lines of no dogs in the dining room while the humans are eating. It seems to work for us. What does not seem to work for us is the penny can. Now, he is not a dog normally traumatized, or even vaguely bothered, by loud noises. We had a short bout with Thunderstorm fears when he was a pup, but he seems to have outgrown it. As we all know, though, for every rule there is an exception. My GSD's exception is the penny can. It terrifies him. All one needs do is pick it up while he is watching and he'll tuck tail and slink away. Shake it and he'll avoid that room/object/person/behavior for at least a day. Actually throw it at him, and he mentally shuts down for a day. I can't explain the affect it has on him, I can only observe it. And I can't say as I particularly like what I observe. If it is scaring him that much, he's obviously not going to learn anything from it.

Case in point, in the past several months he has manifested a new behavior where he sneaks upstairs (another place he is not allowed) any time we sit down for supper. In the past, he was expected to stay out of the dining room and not beg or whine. He always did just fine with that. In the ever optimistic dog's mind that he has, he did sleep on the rug just outside the dining room in the hopes of catching a stray carrot, or something. In the past several months, though, as soon as we sit down for supper, off he sneaks up stairs. And not in the sort of "I know there's something upstairs I can get into while they're busy paying attention to their food." No, this is the sort of "I know it's not safe down here while they're doing the food ingestion thing, so I'll go where it is safe." Why does he suddenly think the downstairs is an unsafe place? I'm not entirely sure. See, I don't have the opportunity to eat supper with them every night, which is fine by me. However, it means I don't see their behavior every night, so I can't judge what it is they're doing that has changed my GSD's behavior. And I know it's something they've done. Considering that I have noticed the reappearance of the penny can, and I've heard my mother say that if my GSD doesn't learn to stay out of the dining room then she'll be using the penny can a lot more, I can only assume that she has been shaking the penny can at supper time for some reason. Perhaps he has been inching his way into the dining room as is his wont. And as far as she's concerned her tactic has worked. He's not in the dining room, or trying to sneak into the dining room. Instead, he's hiding upstairs (another place he's not allowed) in a very unhappy state.

I've explained to my mother that I don't like her using the penny can. It is not an appropriate training tool for him, and it only makes him tense and more apt to react with his teeth, which is already enough of a problem. She doesn't understand, though. All she knows is that when she uses the penny can, he stops whatever behavior offends her for a few days. She doesn't see the way it harms her relationship with him, or the fact that it simply makes him an unhappy dog. Every time she starts using the penny can more often, I am forced to increase my training to regain his confidence. It works amazingly well, but I shouldn't have to do it in the first place.

Why do I bring this up today? Because twice today my GSD has come slinking up stairs with tail tucked and ears flat to his head looking for safety. He's licking his lips, and yawning, and giving off every calming signal I'm aware of. And it's all I can do to convince him to come back downstairs. Why is he acting like this today? Because mom has not one, but two penny cans strategically located on the couch. He has a bad habit of sleeping on the couch at night. I used to let him, but mom doesn't like dogs on the couch so I've had to curb the habit. Except, it hasn't totally worked. I've tried a couple things, mostly involving making the couch an inaccessible or uncomfortable place for him. Mom says either that the method isn't working, or that it's too much work for her. Putting a baby gate in front of the couch: too much work for her. Putting two penny cans on the couch: no work at all.

Now my GSD is afraid of the living room. So, he can't go in the library because it is under construction. He can't go in the dining room. He can't go upstairs. He can't go in the kitchen whenever my mother (or father, or sister, or random stranger) is annoyed by his presence. That leaves him with the hall and the living room. And she just took away the living room.

Now I get to try one more time to explain to her that using penny cans is unacceptable. But it can't be wrong. She read about it in a book. A dog training book no less. How can anything written in a book be wrong?