May 15th, 2006

Chris Keeley

in the absence of human intervention, no animal is going to be all that interested in us. Why would

Dog Days
Malcolm Gladwell discusses Cesar Millan, the host of the National Geographic TV show “Dog Whisperer.” and what canine behavior tells us about human behavior.
Posted 2006-05-15

This week in the magazine, Malcolm Gladwell profiles Cesar Millan, the host of the National Geographic TV show “Dog Whisperer.” Here, with Ben Greenman, Gladwell discusses Millan and what canine behavior tells us about human behavior.

BEN GREENMAN: What first got you interested in Cesar Millan?

MALCOLM GLADWELL: A friend of mine told me about Cesar’s show, “Dog Whisperer,” and swore it was the best thing on television. So I began to watch, and I was quickly hooked. If you are a dog person—and I am—it’s pretty irresistible.

Are most of the canine discipline problems he encounters the result of bad conditioning by dog owners? Has he ever run into a truly incorrigible dog?

Cesar told me that he has failed with only two dogs. The first was a dog that had a discouraging tendency to lunge, unpredictably, at the throats of people nearby. The second was a dog that would attack other dogs when they were being disciplined. Given that Cesar has counselled hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs over the years, that’s not a bad record. I think that even he would concede that there are occasionally bad apples in the dog world—dogs that are the way they are because of some fundamental defect—the same way the human world occasionally gives us a Jeffrey Dahmer.

Early in the article, you point out that dogs are keen observers of human behavior—if not man’s best friend, at least man’s most penetrating analyst. Why did they evolve in this way?

Because we selected them to be that way. Dogs are our most perfect genetic creation. For hundreds of thousands of years, we have systematically chosen and bred dogs precisely for their ability to get along with us, so it’s hardly surprising that the genetic remnant that we deal with today is so perfectly attuned to our needs and moods. There was a famous experiment done in Russia with foxes. Geneticists took wild foxes and systematically bred only those fox offspring which showed any inclination toward human-friendliness. After about forty years of breeding the friendliest of the offspring of a previous generation of friendly foxes, what they got were foxes that not only physically resembled puppies—shorter noses, floppy ears—but foxes that behaved in every way like puppies, that literally ran happily towards any human who came near. Breeding is a wonderful thing.

Are there other animals who understand people as well as dogs? Or do most animals not care? (I’m thinking of Werner Herzog’s documentary film “Grizzly Man,” whose subject thought that he had the power to communicate with and live among bears. He was wrong.)

Not naturally, no. The fox case is a manufactured example, but, in the absence of human intervention, no animal is going to be all that interested in us. Why would they? I mean, if you’re a squirrel, eating nuts and climbing trees and jumping from limb to limb is an awful lot more appealing than, say, the human tendency to watch lots of television or hit a small, round white ball around a golf course.

Cesar Millan’s success is credited not only to his experience with dogs but to one specific skill: phrasing, which deals with the vocabulary and syntax of gesture and movement. How old is the study of phrasing?

The study of human movement—at least, in the formal, sophisticated way that I’m talking about in the article—dates to Rudolf Laban, who was active between the wars. Much of his work was picked up and extended in the nineteen-fifties and sixties by a man named Warren Lamb. So this is a discipline with a fairly extensive history. Laban, interestingly, was a dancer, and this theory started as a way of understanding and notating dance. If you think about it, in that world you need a language to describe movement just as you need a language to describe music.

You write about political phrasing, and how a politician like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan is better at calming and inspiring an audience than a politician like George W. Bush is. How much difference does that make to voters watching speeches on television? How much does phrasing overlap with personal charisma?

That’s a good question, and not one I have a good answer to. Television has a strangely muting effect on a lot of this stuff. A former aide to Clinton once said to me that if Bill Clinton had been able to personally shake the hand of every American, he would have been elected unanimously. I think that’s right. In person, people like this are far more impressive than on television: we pick up so much more on nuance. I remember the first time I saw Jesse Jackson live. I’d seen him many times on TV, and was unimpressed. I thought he was kind of a clown. In person, I was floored. Cesar is the same way: it’s only when you meet him that you “get” why he has that kind of effect on dogs.

This is speculative, obviously, but how do the 2008 Presidential front-runners look, in terms of their phrasing? Hillary Clinton? Al Gore? John McCain? Rudy Giuliani?

I don’t know, I’m afraid. I know movement analysts aren’t crazy about Gore or Hillary Clinton. I’ve seen McCain live, and I was impressed. But I haven’t had one of these experts tell me what it is I’m seeing.

Cesar’s phrasing skill impresses not only dogs but dance teachers and movement analysts, and some of them use their own phrasing to work with children with developmental issues. What are the broader implications of good phrasing?

What we’re talking about, when it comes to phrasing, is simply the ability to communicate with clarity. We all think that those around us have the ability to read our minds—and we get frustrated when our intentions are misunderstood. But the truth is that accurate communication is really hard, and only a very small number of people can do it well. One of my favorite quotes in the article was from Karen Bradley, a prominent movement analyst, who said that when someone does manage to properly integrate posture and gesture with speech we tend to give them TV shows. Oprah is a great example. We also tend to elect them President—like Reagan and Clinton.

Did your phrasing change during the time you worked on the article? Are there certain gestures that you now try to include in your movement vocabulary?

I make a point of never connecting what I’m writing about to my own life. Just kidding. Of course, I started to think about it. Actually, I became quite self-conscious for a while about what I was doing with my gestures. I wish, actually, that at some point in my life I had taken a course on movement. I suspect it would have saved me a great deal of grief over the years.

Can a person learn better phrasing late in life? In your article, you mention a dog owner who is a character actor. He is trained to communicate a certain amount of dramatic tension, which is productive onscreen but not good for calming dogs. Is there any hope for him? Can you teach an old non-dog new tricks?

To a certain extent, yes. Movement analysts say that we all have a kind of phrasing baseline—a personal style that is fairly unconscious and unchangeable. But, as with all personal traits, we can definitely learn to improve our performance at the margins. A good analogy is with actors. Are some people better natural actors than others? Absolutely. But even the best actors take acting lessons—and radically improve their performances as a result.

Cesar’s celebrity is strange in some ways. He has become famous for his skill in communicating his feelings to dogs. How much is this a function of television, and, specifically, reality TV, which seems to need to create a national expert for every skill (home organization, getting straight guys to dress better), even if the existence of the skill wasn’t previously known?

Obviously he is very much a creature of television, if only because what he does lends itself so naturally to that medium. It’s one thing to describe what Cesar does—as I do in my article—but quite another to see him in action. I’m not sure that I would lump him in with the more marginal “experts” we now see on TV. I actually think that he possesses a profoundly fundamental gift, which is the ability to create order from chaos. That’s one of the most important skills any human being can have. It’s of a different magnitude than, say, knowing how to properly hang drywall—although you should watch this space for my upcoming major analysis of the drywall phenomenon.

Chris Keeley

The snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up betwe

Greg Palast on His New Book “Armed Madhouse : Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08…”

Monday, May 15th, 2006

Investigative journalist Greg Palast joins us in the Firehouse Studio to discuss the follow-up to his best-selling book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.”


Telecom giant Verizon has been sued for giving the National Security Agency the phone records of millions of Americans. The lawsuit was filed on Saturday just days after USA Today reported Verizon, Bell South and AT&T handed over millions of phone call records to help the government build the world’s largest database.

While the NSA spy story continues to make headline news, BBC Investigative reporter Greg Palast says that the corporate media is missing the real story.

He writes "The snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the Administration’s Homeland Security spy network and private companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to protect us from our government. You can call it the privatization of the FBI -- though it is better described as the creation of a private KGB.

"Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain’t nothing. You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration."


  • Greg Palast, investigative reporter with the BBC and author of the books "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Democracy and Regulation." His latest book is "Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf? China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal "08, No Child’s Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War."
Chris Keeley

Wilkes received many secret “black budget” contracts from the CIA that are hidden from public scruti

Monday, May 15th, 2006

- Bush To Call For National Guard to Patrol U.S.-Mexico Border
- Rene Preval Sworn In As Haiti’s New President
- Report: Global Warning Could Kill 184 Million in Africa
- Bush Administration Asks Judge To Throw Out AT&T Spy Suit
- Verizon Sued For Sharing Phone Records with NSA
- U.S. Helicopter Shot Down in Iraq; 2 Dead
- Cindy Sheehan Leads Mother’s Day Anti-War Vigil
- Feds Raid Home & Office of Ex-Top CIA Official
- U.S. Blocks Access for Red Cross to Secret Prisons
- Laura Bush: “I Don't Really Believe Those [Public Opinion] Polls”
- Clear Channel DJ Threatens On Air to Sexually Abuse 4-Year-Old



Bush To Call For National Guard to Patrol U.S.-Mexico Border
President Bush is planning to deploy thousands of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border to help keep out undocumented immigrants. Bush is expected to make the announcement tonight during a rare prime-time address from the Oval Office. On Sunday Mexican President Vicente Fox called Bush to express concern over what he called the militarization of the border. White House officials have said the deployment is a temporary measure to give the government time to hire private contractors to support Border Patrol.

Report: Global Warning Could Kill 184 Million in Africa
The charity group Christian Aid is warning that global warming could have a devastating effect on the continent of Africa. A new report by the group estimates 184 million people could die in Africa this century as a result of climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict. The group said “Poor people will take the brunt, so we are calling on rich countries to help them adjust as the seas rise, the deserts expand, and floods and hurricanes become more frequent and intense.”

Bush Administration Asks Judge To Throw Out AT&T Spy Suit
The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit against AT&T over the company’s role in the National Security Agency’s warrant-less domestic surveillance program. In court papers, federal officials argued that whether the operations were legal or not, the program involved secrets too sensitive for public discussion.

Verizon Sued For Sharing Phone Records with NSA
Meanwhile the telecom giant Verizon has been sued for giving the NSA the phone records of millions of Americans. The lawsuit was filed on Saturday just days after USA Today reported Verizon, Bell South and AT&T handed over millions of phone call records to help the government build the world’s largest database, The 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act made it illegal for telephone companies and computer service providers to give the government records showing who their customers had dialed or e-mailed. Attorneys say that under the 1986 law the telecoms could be forced to pay out one thousand dollars per violation per customer.

New EU Law Allows U.S. Gov’t To Access Europeans’ Phone Records
Meanwhile U.S. spy operations are also making headlines in Europe. A Swedish newspaper is reporting that a new European Union law may allow the U.S. government to access information on phone calls, text messages and emails sent by EU citizens. The new law – which goes into effect next year -- requires European telephone operators and internet service providers to store information on who called whom and who emailed whom for at least six months.

Report: U.S. Deployed Mentally Ill Soldiers to Iraq
In other news from Iraq, the Hartford Courant reports the U.S. military has routinely deployed soldiers with known mental problems to fight in Iraq. The paper said a record 22 U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year. In several cases soldiers remained on active duty even after they attempted suicide.

Cindy Sheehan Leads Mother’s Day Anti-War Vigil
In Washington, peace campaigner Cindy Sheehan spent Mothers Day in an anti-war vigil outside the White House along with actress Susan Sarandon, other military mothers and Iraq war veterans.

Feds Raid Home & Office of Ex-Top CIA Official
On Friday, federal agents raided the home and office of Dusty Foggo, who up until last week was the third highest-ranking official at the CIA. The raids came a week after CIA Director Porter Goss unexpectedly resigned. It was Goss who promoted Foggo to become the CIA’s executive director two years ago. Foggo is suspected of being part of a congressional bribery scandal that also involved jailed Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham and the defense contractor Brent Wilkes. Foggo and Wilkes have been close friends for decades. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Wilkes received many secret “black budget” contracts from the CIA that are hidden from public scrutiny. Wilkes has also been accused of providing prostitutes at the Watergate and Westin hotels in Washington to lawmakers in an effort to win contracts.

U.S. Blocks Access for Red Cross to Secret Prisons
The International Committee of the Red Cross is accusing the Bush administration of ignoring requests from the organization to have access to detainees being held in secret U.S. jails around the world. The U.S. has disappeared an unknown number of people captured in the so-called war on terror. The government refuses to reveal where they are held or to allow anyone – including attorneys – to see them.

  • Vincent Lusser, Red Cross spokesperson: "Well indeed states can detain people for imperative reasons of security but whatever the legitimate reason for detaining people, we think there is no right to keep them in places that are unknown, and to deny that they're being detained. So what we wish is to be notified of the people being captured or arrested and then to get standard ICRC access to these people as we do for people in Guantanamo and Bagram."

Israeli Strike Kills Seven Palestinians in Jenin
In the West Bank town of Jenin, thousands of Palestinians gathered today for the funeral of seven Palestinians killed by Israeli forces on Sunday. Among the dead was a leading militant from the group Islamic Jihad who was accused of being connected to last month’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed 11 people. Meanwhile Israel’s high court has upheld a controversial law that can block Palestinians residents of the West Bank or Gaza Strip from moving to Israel in order to live with their spouse – even if their spouse has Israeli citizenship.

Laura Bush: “I Don't Really Believe Those [Public Opinion] Polls”
In news from Washington – First Lady Laura Bush said Sunday she doesn’t believe the public opinion polls that show her husband is one of the least popular presidents of the past 50 years. On Friday a Harris Poll put the President’s approval rating at a new low of 29 percent. Laura Bush told Fox News "I don't really believe those polls… As I travel around the United States, I see a lot of appreciation for him. A lot of people come up to me and say, 'Stay the course'."

Opposition Grows to Army’s 700-Ton Bomb Test in Nevada
In Southern Utah, scores of protesters gathered Saturday to protest the government’s plan to set off 700-tons of explosives next month in the Nevada Test Site. The explosion will be 50 times more powerful than the Army’s largest conventional bomb. Although the test – known as the Divine Strake -- will use conventional explosives, it is being conducted in order to better understand nuclear bunker buster bombs. According to government documents, the test is needed to determine the “proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities.” The Pentagon estimates the blast will be so large that it will create a 10,000 foot-high mushroom cloud. Critics fear the dust could spread radioactive particles from old nuclear tests.

BC Prof Resigns Over Decision to Honor Condi Rice
In education news, an adjunct professor at Boston College has resigned to protest the school’s decision to award Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an honorary degree. In a letter to the school’s president, professor Steve Almond said Rice has quote “lied to the American people knowingly, repeatedly… in an effort to justify a pathologically misguided foreign policy.”

Army Withdraws Support For Baghdad ER Documentary
And senior Army officials are withdrawing their support for a new HBO documentary filmed inside an Army combat hospital in Baghdad. The Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey and other senior Army officials were originally planning to attend a screening tonight of the film Baghdad ER. But they have decided that the film’s graphic footage might demoralize soldiers and negatively affect public opinion about the war. Last week the Army's chief surgeon issued a memo warning medical staff at Army posts across the country to prepare for a possible influx of soldiers and families seeking comfort and counseling after watching the documentary. This is an excerpt of Baghdad ER. A warning for our television audience: this footage may disturb some viewers. Baghdad ER was produced by Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill of Downtown Community Television in New York. The documentary will air on HBO on Sunday.

Chris Keeley

Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said the singer, who was found with a marijuana ciga

WOODSTOCK, N.Y. (AP) -- Art Garfunkel made up for last summer's arrest for marijuana possession in Woodstock by speaking to students at two local high schools about keeping a healthy lifestyle.

Ulster County District Attorney Donald Williams said the singer, who was found with a marijuana cigarette in his ashtray after being pulled over for running a stop sign, spoke at the two Hudson Valley schools in late March.

Garfunkel, 64, would have paid a $100 fine instead.

It was the second time in less than two years that Garfunkel, a Manhattan resident, was arrested for having pot in Ulster County. He paid a fine the first time.

''He was sincere, thoughtful and impressive,'' Williams said of the Garfunkel speech he attended.

Garfunkel, who with Paul Simon made up the duo Simon & Garfunkel, produced a string of hits in the 1960s, including ''The Sounds of Silence,'' ''Mrs. Robinson'' and ''Bridge Over Troubled Water.''


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Chris Keeley

$1,500-a-day lap dancers and millions of dollars worth of homes, cars, diamond watches and other acc

Gizmondo took in about $2.6 million but lost more than $263 million.,0,2889731,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines
From the Los Angeles Times

Life in Fast Lane Long Before Ferrari Crash

Before he shattered a red Ferrari in Malibu and became grist for Internet legend, Bo Stefan Eriksson ran a criminal gang in Sweden, raced cars in Europe, skippered a yacht called Snow White and helped run a video game company with dreams of taking on Sony and Nintendo, according to authorities.
By Jeffrey Fleishman and Richard Winton
Times Staff Writers

May 15, 2006

Charges Pile Up

The fates of Eriksson and Freer are also in question. Eriksson, 44, is in jail in Los Angeles awaiting trial on charges that include embezzlement, grand theft auto, illegally possessing a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum and driving while intoxicated. The counts arose from the Feb. 21 car accident and have become part a widening investigation into his activities after he entered the U.S. in August with two Ferrari Enzos and a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, valued at $3.8 million and owned by British financial institutions. He had a lease contract on the vehicles, authorities said, prohibiting him from taking them out of the country.

In 1988, Eriksson was convicted of possessing a shotgun and selling 10 small bags of cocaine. He spent about two years in prison.

In 1993, Eriksson was convicted and imprisoned on charges of assault, making threats and attempting to inject as much as 20 million counterfeit Swedish kronor, about $2.6 million at the time, into the country's money supply. While in prison on those counts, he was convicted in a separate case for enlisting at least one bank employee to falsify deposit and checking slips to divert money to Eriksson's connections in Sweden and to secret accounts in Spain. Police estimate that more than $7 million was stolen.

"He has a tremendous verbal capacity. He could sell sand in the Sahara and refrigerators to Eskimos."

Freer bought three homes for a total of nearly $15 million and owned a yacht valued at more than $10 million. Eriksson bought cars, watches, cocaine and often hired lap dancers from the Spearmint Rhino club in London, the former employee said.