Sunday, May 25, 2008

An Incident Observed at Shop-Rite

My mother observed this incident yesterday at a Shop-Rite in the Kensington neighborhood, where a police officer was recently killed during a bank robbery.

A woman was talking with her husband about the robbery, complaining that the bank should have an around the clock guard, and blaming the “goddamn n-----s.” All this was said in a loud voice, in a produce section full of people of all races.

This incident is a testament to the racism often found amid the white working class. This has relevance not only to race relations in Philadelphia, but also to the 2008 presidential campaign. The fact is, whether or not people want to talk about it, a certain portion of the working class is opposing Obama because he is African-American. This may not be all of the reason behind working class opposition to Obama, but it is certainly a part of it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Letter from a Nonexistant World

A recent post on the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary blog, “Letter from a Vegan World,” reveals a lot about what is currently wrong with the animal rights movement. It has been co-opted by vegan extremists who will not settle for anything less than a totally vegetarian society.

The post is an attack on the humane farming movement, which seeks to escape the factory farming paradigm in favor of a model that more closely fits the natural impulses of farm animals. Its author, Joanna Lucas, claims that even in these farms, animals still suffer. She cites several examples: an organic dairy cow, a rose veal calf, and a free range egg-laying chicken.

In a highly manipulative, anthropomorphic style, Lucas explores the emotional “traumas” that these animals undergo as part of everyday agricultural practice. She points to calves being taken from cows, and eggs being taken from chickens, as if they are offenses on a level with the kidnapping of a child.

The goal of this attack is to dissuade people from consuming any animal meat (or, as Lucas prefers to call it, flesh) at all. Lucas argues that a committed vegan movement could persuade the entire world to go vegetarian, if it only tried. She condemns animal rights activists for not more actively promoting a vegan agenda, claiming that organizations larger than hers are not standing up for a vegan agenda. (Apparently, she has not heard of Farm Sanctuary or PETA.)

There are two finds I find particularly wrong with this approach. First, its goal is unattainable. The desire for meat is actually growing with the rise of industrial nations such as China and India, and demand is still strong in the United States. People around the world want meat, and nothing will change that within our lifetimes. Lucas’s approach displays all the strategic acumen of Don Quixote.

Secondly, I am disturbed by what her article omits. Although she bewails the “suffering” of animals on free range and organic farms, she does not compare their experience with the horrors of factory farming. For instance, #6, the organic dairy cow who misses her calf, grieves amid the pastures of a free range farm, circumstances that would be envied by her factory-farmed cousins. All the animals pictured in the report look clean and well cared for. Although Lucas claims the chicken has been debeaked, the pictured chicken appears to have its beak intact. If it has been debeaked, it was done very skillfully.

This is not to overlook some problems in the organic farming industry. Because of the rather loose definition of “organic,” some meats are labeled as organic while still being raised in sheds. Indeed, as Lucas notes, many free range eggs are actually laid by chickens in enclosed, overcrowded barns. Nevertheless, this is the most humane, practical solution that I am aware of.

Why then, does Lucas object so strenuously? I suspect it is because she, like many vegans, cannot accept the idea of animals being killed at all. Never mind that in nature, many of the cute calves and other baby animals do not survive to see adulthood, dying either of disease, accident, or being eaten alive by predators. Death is the converse of life, a necessary part of the ecological cycle. There is nothing more immoral about a person killing an animal to eat it than in a wolf killing its prey. The moral challenge is to kill in the most compassionate way possible.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Repent Hillbots, the End Is Near

An article by the Washington Post and MSNBC reports that Sen. Clinton's and Sen. Obama's fundraisers are getting together and working out how to work together for the general election. Sen. Clinton's top financial backers have recognized that the jig is up, and it's time to start backing a winning candidate.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Beat the Cockburn

Although The Nation Alexander Cockburn is known for his extreme opinions, his “Year of the Prisoner” column was beyond the pale. (Note: You must have a Nation subscription to read the full article.) First, his suggestion that Democrats should accuse John McCain of collaborating with the North Vietnamese is politically suicidal. Doing so would open the Democratic Party to a deluge of condemnation for being unpatriotic. It is bad enough when the Republicans swift boat us; we do not need to do it to ourselves.

Second, his claims that nuclear weapons may be on the USS Jimmy Carter, despite international agreements to the contrary, are unsubstantiated. Aren’t journalistic accusations supposed to be supported by evidence, or has The Nation adopted the standards of Fox News?

Mr. Cockburn should look to the example of his brother Patrick and base his assertions on the facts on the ground. Until he does so, his column should be entitled “Out to Lunch.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nanny State for Adults

A recent post on Lew illustrates just how out of control government efforts to interfere with our lives have become. A father has been imprisoned because his eighteen year old daughter failed the math portion of a GED test.

Excuse me, but aren't adults supposed to take responsibility for their own actions? If she's old enough to die in Iraq, isn't she old enough to be held responsible for her test scores?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hillary: The Official Candidate of Whitey

Well, it's official. Senator Hillary Clinton claims only she has the support of "hard working white Americans," as documented on Face the Nation today. Yeah, Hillary, you'll be able to unite the party if you somehow manage to steal the nomination.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Vice Laws

Two recent news stories offer an all too saddening glance at our society’s futile and misguided attempt to regulate behavior through vice laws. Although both of these stories are being treated as tabloid / human interest fodder, they have a great deal to say about our drug and prostitution laws. None of it is good.

The first case is the arrest of Susan Febvre, who had been on the run for over thirty years after escaping from a Michigan prison. She had been facing a twenty year sentence for selling heroin. In her time out of prison, she has from all appearances completely reformed, going on to raise a middle class family and get involved in community organizations.

Now she’s being sent back to prison for nineteen years, for things that happened in the seventies…

The second case is that of the “D.C. Madam,” Norma Jean Palfrey, (One of the most disgusting aspects of the media’s treatment of these cases is their salacious focus on sex while ignoring the human aspects), who committed suicide at her mother’s house in Florida. She was facing sentencing on prostitution charges, which could potentially have carried up to fifty years in prison, although it would more likely have been six years.

Two families thrown into chaos, all because our government wants to protect people from their own decisions.

Surely I am not the only one who sees the waste in all this. Not just of individual lives, but of society’s resources. When you put a drug offender or someone in the sex trade in prison, you take up space that could hold a violent offender. That is part of the reason we have so many incidents with violent criminals being paroled and then killing people.

This is not to glamorize the drug or sex trades. Having lived in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, I have seen the horrible effects drugs can have on individuals, and the degradations prostitution can inflict upon women, not to mention the potential for spreading disease.

However, this is the result of individual choices, which should be left up to the individual, not to society. Indeed, many of the vices which are legal in our society, such as smoking, alcohol, and gambling, have their own negative effects. If we were to follow the logic we use for drugs and prostitution, these two would be illegal.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Oath, Schmoath

A disturbing story from the Los Angeles Times reports that a Quaker teacher was not allowed to take a job at California State University because her religion would not let her take a loyalty oath.

Didn't we get over this crap in the 1950s? Whatever happened to religious freedom?

Not a Conspiracy, Just a Tragedy

The Suburban Guerilla blog has an idiotic post about the suicide of D.C. Madam, Deborah Jean Palfrey, alleging, without any evidence, that she was actually murdered.

Rather than spewing conspiracy theories, we should focus on the damage that vice laws do to people's lives.

I will be posting a much longer essay on this topic in the near future. I would have posted it today, but I left my flash drive at home.