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It's nurture, not nature, that makes good dogs bad.
It's nurture, not nature, that makes good dogs bad. (Photo:

It's not the dog's fault

Since everyone asks, I'll answer it loud and clear. Yes, we pay our freelance writers. And no, when they write opinion pieces, we don't tell that what they can and cannot write.

Such is the case with my friend and colleague Dave Begel. He was a journalist before I was born, and he writes some of the most controversial blog posts on I respect what he does for us, even when it incites and incenses our readership.

Sometimes I agree with him.

Other times, I do not.

Today was one of the days I do not.

Dave wrote a blog post about so-called attack dogs. He claimed that the dogs, not the owners, are responsible for violence.

Dave is wrong on this one.

Yes, certain types of dogs have stronger jaws. Certainly those dogs are more frequently raised in hostile, untrained environments. Obviously, these are the dogs that are raised to fight.

But even if rottweilers, doberman pinschers and pit bulls are more frequently trained to be aggressive dogs, it doesn't mean they are genetically predisposed to be attackers.

I'm not an animal psychologist, so I concede that different dogs have different temperaments, and indeed it might be easier to allow these breeds to become violent.

But the crux of the problem is almost completely with the owner. Raise and train a properly socialized puppy, and you'll get a great dog.

Look, I know one sweet and kind pit bull that would let you put your entire head inside her mouth without chomping down. I trust this dog around my daughter, and this dog was rescued from a drug house, so she didn't come from the best upbringing.

Many of us at are ardent backers of the Humane Society, ASPCA and MADACC. I certainly am. I brought back a rescue dog from Mexico. Playa is the best dog I've ever had.

And I will always, always, always give a dog the benefit of the doubt. To propose rounding up an entire breed because of unrelated, albeit vicious incidents, is cruel and ignorant.

I'm still a fan of Begel, and like my c…

Does this make you nervous?
Does this make you nervous? (Photo:

My first brush with concealed carry

I think I saw a gun today.

I can't be sure, because I didn't stop to stare, but at lunch at the Grand Avenue mall food court, I saw a pistol in a guy's pocket.

I know I just blogged about giving the mall another chance, and what I saw doesn't really have anything to do with it. Here's what happened.

On my way to Panda Express (guilty pleasure, I know) I walked past an older white man – I say "white" because some unfortunately do associate mall problems with black people. He was holding two crutches and wearing baggy sweatpants. I guess my eyes focused on his crutches, because I immediately noticed the butt of a handgun sticking out of his left pocket.

Am I sure it was a gun? No, but I've seen guns, and I've fired guns. This looked like a gun. I certainly didn't ask him if it was.

I immediately thought to myself, "Well, this is what concealed carry is all about," and I ordered my food. I felt edgy as I sat down far away from the man.

I ate very quickly, but while I did, I kept an eye on my surroundings. I noticed every security guard in the food court. I felt like they were at a heightened state of readiness. Maybe someone else saw the gun, too, and reported it.

I didn't, and I wasn't panicking because this is legal now, right? If it is, I still didn't feel very comfortable. After I tweeted the incident on my way out, someone replied that guns aren't allowed in malls.

I didn't stick around to see if he was right.

Understand that this guy was in no way threatening, yet still, I felt vaguely threatened. Why, I don't know, because for this one gun that I saw, many, many people are out there doing a much better job of concealing their weapons.

I guess that's just the new reality.

Update: In retrospect, it sure seems like this wasn't a true "concealed carry." Yes, this man was concealing (barely) and carrying a firearm, but I probably erred in thinking he was obeying the law. But this raises a good point: is it the burden of the non-gun owner to know the ins …

Yes, those are actually people walking around the Grand Avenue mall.
Yes, those are actually people walking around the Grand Avenue mall.

One more chance for Grand Avenue?

I almost can't believe I'm writing this, but I think major retailers should give one more shot at saving the Grand Avenue mall.

I'm surprising even myself, because it wasn't all that long ago that I blogged that the mall should just throw in the towel and become something else.

Yet, because we moved our office Downtown a few months ago, I find myself visiting the mall several times each week. I'm going there for lunch, mostly because the covered skywalks make walking around in the winter much more tolerable. And guess what?

There are lots of people at the Grand Avenue mall.

Not tons, like I remember it in the '80s, and they're not necessarily shopping at the pre-paid wireless stores or nail salons. They're eating lunch or meeting at the Stone Creek Coffee or working out at the YMCA or scouring T.J. Maxx for bargains.

Even if suburbanites have long since given up the mall for dead, focusing on points north, south and west to do their shopping (feel free to infer racial undertones, if you want) working people in Downtown still come here during business hours.

The thing is, if Grand Avenue mall wants to rebound, it's going to have to do more than play business incubator and offer free or discounted rent to pop-up shops. That's great – I'd rather see a startup web design fill a space for cheap than leave it empty – that's how we started out at our very first office.

But the mall needs stores. Real stores.

There are actually a few. After paying close attention to the few major chains in the mall, I did notice that people were in fact visiting Walgreen's and Office Max and Radio Shack. They weren't, however, visiting Boston Store. It looked sad and empty.

So that's probably the main argument against the "if build it, they will come" plan. But Boston Store only remains at the mall because of the corporate offices above it, or perhaps from some civic duty. You can tell the store isn't really giving it its all, and why should they?

I assert that the new owners …

Can you picture this becoming a reality in Wisconsin? Me, neither.
Can you picture this becoming a reality in Wisconsin? Me, neither. (Photo:

Why is Wisconsin behind the curve?

I've been thinking a lot about some of the national hot-button issues that are dominating the news. Among the more interesting ones is the trend of legalizing marijuana, for either medicinal or recreational purposes. My gut says that the days of criminalizing pot use, nationally, are waning, and in 10 years, we'll all be laughing about this like it was Prohibition.

And then I think of Wisconsin, and I can't even imagine our state getting on board with this on its own. Just like the smoking ban, we waited until most of our neighbors enacted it, and even then, it didn't happen without a contentious fight.

Yet, when it comes to curbing alcohol use or drinking and driving laws, Wisconsin only complies when it has to.

But take high-speed rail. Even if the rest of the country goes forward gung ho, Wisconsin completely shuts it down.

Or gay marriage. Or the death penalty. Or separation of church and state.

And I won't even touch the gun control issue on this forum, but given Wisconsinites fondness for hunting, I can imagine it will be the hottest of the hot-button issues.

Please understand that I'm not advocating one way or the other on these issues; my opinions on these topics are not germane to this blog posting. I'm only wondering why, when it comes to following the lead of the rest of the country for right or for wrong, at least lately, Wisconsin says "thanks but no thanks."

I don't think it's a Democrat or Republican thing. Yes, Gov. Scott Walker is certainly a Republican, but congressionally, Wisconsin is very "purple." And in presidential elections, Wisconsin votes Democrat more often than not.

Wisconsin has a very progressive history, actually, but lately it seems content with the status quo. Are we that much smarter than the rest of America? Or are we so much dumber?

Maybe it's a rural-urban thing. Milwaukee and Dane Counties are obviously extremely liberal, while the rest of the state (with a few exceptions) tends to be much more conservative.

It's puzz…