Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Country of Origin to Appear on Some Food

A law that goes into effect tomorrow -- but which comes with a six-month grace period -- requires that certain foods be labeled with their country of origin.

The foods affected include "ground and whole cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and goat meat; farm-raised fish and shellfish, wild fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, ginseng and macadamia nuts."

While the new law, part of the Farm Bill, is technically a marketing provision designed to give U.S. products a leg up in the marketplace, advocates say it will improve overall food safety, especially after a spate of widespread food contaminations over the last two years.

Opponents of the law complain that it unfairly implies that imported foods are less safe than domestic foods[.]
I agree. Given the evidence in the past few years of animals being mistreated at U.S. slaughterhouses and factory farms, of labor laws being violated and of slaughterhouse workers becoming ill, I don't see this law as helping food safety -- until people become sick. And even then we will only know which country the product came from, not from which farm or slaughterhouse.

The law is helpful, though, for people who want to purchase products that are transported as little distance as possible, thereby possibly lessening the products' carbon footprints.

This "locavore" action would apply to fruits, veggies and nuts. But those who care about the environment should, of course, abstain from eating meat.

(Photo courtesy of wincancer.blogspot.com.)



Animal Experimenters Given Greater Protection

California's governor signed into law yesterday a bill that limits animal activists' freedom of speech.

The Researcher Protection Act of 2008 -- supported heavily by the University of California -- makes it a misdemeanor to publish the addresses or photographs of academic researchers (ie. animal experimenters) ...

[...] with the intent that another person imminently use the information to commit a crime involving violence or a threat of violence against the academic researcher or his or her immediate family member, and the information is likely to produce the imminent commission of such a crime[.]
So if I were to publish a list of experimenters' addresses on my blog because I was organizing legal home protests, how do I know if someone reading my blog is going to commit a violent act against one of the experimenters? I don't.

Also, this law is redundant.

Existing law makes it unlawful for persons to engage in certain acts of trespass [...]

This bill would make a person who enters the residential real property of an academic researcher, as defined, for the purpose of chilling, preventing the exercise of, or interfering with the researcher's academic freedom guilty of the crime of trespass, a misdemeanor. By creating new crimes, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
This bill (AB 2296) was introduced into the California Assembly in February. In July it was put into an "inactive file." The firebomings of two UC researchers' property in Santa Cruz sparked (pun intended) a renewed interest in the bill. On Aug. 4, two days after the firebombings, the bill was pulled out of the inactive file.

The University of California, the FBI and even the media were quick to state definitively that the perpetrators were animal rights activists -- even though, to this day, no one has claimed responsibility, no one has been found guilty and no one has even been charged.

In addition to the University of California, the following groups had signed on as supporters of this bill:
l California Houndsmen for Conservation
l Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California
l Safari Club International
l The California Sportsman's Lobby, Inc.

(Photo courtesy of WWAIL.org.)



Sunday, September 28, 2008

Election '08: Alaskans Hold 2nd Anti-Palin Rally

Two weeks ago Alaskans held an "Alaskan Women Reject Palin" rally in Anchorage. Yesterday they held a second protest, the "Hold Palin Accountable" rally.

I've never seen anything like these protests. Normally a state's residents are excited at the prospect of one of their own ascending to the White House -- and perhaps sending a few gifts back to the state.

But these Alaskans know that the future of this country is at stake, and they want the world to know that Gov. Sarah Palin does not reflect their values, principles and desires.

From an Alaskan blogger at "The Mudflats":

[W]e've felt a bit like we're living in the Dr. Seuss story, "Horton Hears a Who". If you’re not familiar with this tale, it involves thousands of tiny people who live on a dust speck, and no matter how loudly they yell, no one can seem to hear them. They keep screaming "We are here! We are here! We are here!" but to no avail. It takes a moment of real desperation, and the participation of every little Who in Whoville, but finally their cries are heard.
The first rally was not covered by the television media. This time, though, it was.

Local TV news from every station, the Anchorage Daily News, unmarked video cameras in various sizes, photographers with lenses 2 feet long scurrying around, people with hand-held devices talking to protesters.... It took my breath away. I had to stop what I was doing, and just stand, and look.

I said it after the last rally, and I'll say it again. This does not happen here.

There were 1500 protesters at the last rally. This time there were more. If there weren’t 2000, it was really close.
(Photo courtesy of "The Mudflats.")



Challenge Corporate Power

If a corporation were an actual person, it'd be labeled a psychopath. That's the premise of the documentary "The Corporation." (Thanks to Nikki at Generation V for introducing me to it. You can watch it for free online at FreeDocumentaries.com. I recommend watching Part 2 first.)

While a corporation isn't a person -- it's made up of individuals who run it -- legally it is viewed as a person.

In a session at AR2008, a speaker said that the Fourteenth Amendment, which was created to give rights to blacks, was used more in court to help corporations than to help blacks. That statement seemed so odd that I questioned whether it was factual. Turns out it is.

CEOs used that amendment to successfully argue that a corporation is a person and has the same rights as a person.

But as "The Corporation" shows, while they have the same rights as people, corporations don't necessarily have the conscience that people have. Their focus is strictly on the bottom line, on making larger and larger profits. They have a duty to their shareholders, not to anyone else.

For that reason, corporations pollute our air and water, rape our land, exploit and kill our workers (both domestically and abroad), and torture and kill our animals.

But, as I said, corporations are made up of individuals. And some of the people I hate most are those inside corporations who know that egregious harm is being done to someone or something, yet they look the other way and continue to draw a paycheck.

I greatly admire whistleblowers, people who put the lives of millions ahead of their own.

Like eating meat, consumerism has been ingrained in us. We need to start asking ourselves, "Do I really need to buy this?" And a more difficult question to answer is, "If I buy this, what am I supporting?"

With so many corporations and with their desire to hide the negative aspects of themselves, it's sometimes difficult to know what our dollars are supporting. I assume that not all corporations are bad. I know some are better than others. So when I read about a corporation harming our Earth or its inhabitants, I'll let you know. And please do the same.

(Illustration courtesy of Austin Kleon. Click it to enlarge.)



Saturday, September 27, 2008

FBI's Tactics Have Long History

I used to believe that conspiracy theorists were mentally ill, perhaps paranoid schizophrenics. After all, the most simple explanation is probably the correct one -- at least that's what Ockham's razor says.

For example, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The simplest explanation is that one person, with his own dislike for his policies, killed him. Could our government really conspire to carry out such an action and get away with it?

After becoming involved with animal rights and discovering Green Is the New Red, though, I began to believe that some in our government will go to great lengths to protect the status quo, thereby protecting their wealthy friends.

"COINTELPRO: The FBI's War on Black America," which you can watch online for free at that link, recounts the FBI's role in attempting to prevent blacks from achieving equality. The FBI used the same tactics that we still see used to hurt movements today: infiltrating groups, wiretapping and arresting people with opposing views.

COINTELPRO was a counterintelligence program from 1956 to 1971.

COINTELPRO was a secret FBI program designed to monitor and "neutralize" domestic groups deemed by the FBI to be a danger to national security. Such groups included anti-war groups and civil rights groups and individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr.
Regarding the animal rights movement, we've seen recently where the FBI blamed a firebombing on animal rights activists. Despite no arrests being made, the media blindly followed what the FBI said and have written numerous stories that definitively say the perpetrator is an AR activist, playing nicely into the hands of the FBI, the University of California and animal experimenters. COINTELPRO had that same goal, with relation to the black-power movement: to discredit it.

Yes, the easiest explanation would be that it was an AR activist. But I'm not convinced.

It's important to see the connections between all groups of oppressed people (and animals) -- both currently and historically -- and to learn from them. To help our movement(s), we need to recognize when something seems a little off. Sure, the simplest answer could be correct. But then again, maybe there are other forces at play.

(Photo courtesy of Stanford.edu.)



Friday, September 26, 2008

Election '08: State of Economy Deja Vu for McCain

Note: While this post doesn't directly relate to the subjects of my blog, I feel it's important, especially with the presidential election approaching, to understand (at least a little better) how our economy was allowed to crumble so much.

Talk of business, Wall Street and millions (or billions) of dollars makes my eyes glaze over. There are too many words and phrases I don't know the meanings of. A figure with oodles of zeros after it is too abstract to be real to me. I like simplicity, and it appears that businesses -- and even our government -- prefer complexity, in part to keep the average American in the dark.

Just what exactly is going on between banks, mortgage lenders, insurance companies and the government? Is a $700 billion bailout (on the backs of taxpayers) going to help?

According to 200 economists from prominent universities across the country, including three Nobel Prize winners, President George W. Bush's belief that his bailout plan must be adopted right away is wrong. They urge Congress "not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come."

Yet Bush and Sen. John McCain want a solution yesterday. In a strange twist of opinion, McCain on Wednesday announced he would suspend his campaign to concentrate on the bailout. Although as Great Britain's Globe and Mail reported, McCain's "suspended' campaign [is still] churning along."

John McCain cancelled on David Letterman, but sat down with Katie Couric. He called off campaign appearances, but allowed his surrogates to appear on news shows.
This was just nine days after he had told us, "The economy is strong."

At a morning rally in Jacksonville [on Sept. 15], McCain noted what he called "tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street," but continued to say he believes the economy is sound -- a line from his stump speech for which Democrats have mocked him.
A few hours later McCain had changed his position.

[H]e described the country's current financial situation as "a crisis" and repeatedly said he was concerned about the fundamentals of the economy.

"I know Americans are hurting," McCain said. "The fundamentals of our economy are at risk.... And those fundamentals are threatened, they are threatened and at risk because some on Wall Street have treated Wall Street like a casino."
So how did the economy get to be in such bad shape? It turns out McCain played a role.

Here is a very simplified timeline, written with facts from the link above.

1933 -- The Glass-Steagall Act was put into place to "to control the rampant speculation that had helped cause the collapse of banking at the outset of the Depression, and to prevent such consolidation of the banks that the nation had all its eggs in one fiscal basket."

1981 -- McCain meets Charles Keating, the head of the Lincoln Savings & Loan Association in California.

McCain and Keating had known each other since 1981 and had become fast friends. Of all the "Keating Five," it was McCain who really moved into the life of the Lincoln S&L chief. The two men vacationed together multiple times, with the whole McCain clan (babysitter included) heading out for Keating's private Caribbean property on Keating's private jet. McCain didn't think to actually report these trips, or pay for them, until the investigators were breathing down his neck. And McCain took payment in more than just vacations. Keating and other members of Lincoln's parent company padded McCain's pockets with $112,000 in campaign contributions.
1982 -- McCain gets elected to the U.S. Senate.

The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act was passed. It "was largely authored by lobbyists for the S&L industry--including John McCain's warm-up speaker at the Republican National Convention, Fred Thompson" -- and "would substantially deregulate the savings and loan industry."

1985 -- The chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board realized that the savings and loan industry was headed for trouble, so "he instituted a rule to limit the amount and types of investments S&Ls could carry on their books." But many S&Ls ignored the rules, including Keating's.

One of Keating's friends got on the board, and a "quintet of senators, among them John McCain, began having meetings with both the management at Lincoln and the regulators at the loan board."

1989 -- Along with other savings and loan institutions, Lincoln Savings & Loan goes under, "taking the life savings of 21,000, mostly elderly, investors with them."

1999 -- Phil Gramm -- McCain's economic adviser who, in July 2008, called Americans "a nation of whiners" living in a "mental recession" -- proposed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which McCain voted for. This legislation repealed part of 1933's Glass-Steagall Act, "allowing not only more bank mergers but for banks to become directly involved in the stock market, bonds and insurance." Banks lost some of the regulations that had protected them.

2000 -- Gramm supported the "Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which was slipped into a 'must pass' spending bill on the last day of the 106th Congress. This act greatly expanded the scope of futures trading, created new vehicles for speculation and sheltered several investments from regulation."

[L]arge parts of this bill were written by industry lobbyists. This included the "Enron loophole" that exempted energy trading from regulation, and was written by (big surprise) Enron lobbyists working with Gramm. Not coincidentally, Senator Gramm, the second-largest recipient of campaign contributions from Enron, was also key to legislating the deregulation of California's energy commodity trading.
Also in 2000:

[D]espite his political near-death experience as a member of the Keating Five, McCain continued to champion deregulation, voting in 2000, for instance, against federal regulation of the kind of financial derivatives at the heart of today's crisis.
2008 -- Until August of this year,

the lobbying firm owned by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was paid $15,000 a month by Freddie Mac, one of the mortgage giants implicated in the current crisis (now taken over by the government and under investigation by the FBI). Apparently, Freddie Mac's plan was to gain influence with McCain's campaign in hopes that he would help shield it from pesky government regulations. And until very recently, Freddie Mac executives probably figured money paid to Davis' firm was money well spent. "I'm always in favor of less regulation," McCain told the Wall Street Journal in March.
After decades of pushing for deregulation, and after co-opting Sen. Barack Obama's theme of change and telling us that he and Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin are reformers, it's clear that McCain's interests lie in corporations, not in the lives of everyday Americans.

(Photo of Phil Gramm and John McCain courtesy of Newsday.)



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Understanding PETA

Before I became vegetarian, I only knew that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals cared about animals. I didn't realize how devisive they were. But many people -- even some in the animal-rights movement -- don't like the group, partly because of their antics to attract publicity.

PETA doesn't apologize, though, and accepts the attacks from their detractors. They're focused on their goal: Helping animals by staying in the media. They know what attracts the attention of the media, and they continue to put on shows for them, thereby remaining a powerful public presence.

For their newest stunt, they've asked the folks at Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream to substitute human breast milk for cow's milk. At face value, PETA looks like a bunch of morons. Consumers don't want to drink breast milk, and Ben and Jerry aren't going to make the switch. But that's not why PETA asked them to.

At the heart of all of PETA's stunts is truth. In this case:

n that humans are the only species that drinks the milk of another species;

n that humans are the only species that continues to drink milk after we've been weened;

n that cows -- despite what people think (myself included until a year ago) -- don't continuously produce milk. They lactate for the same reason women lactate: to produce milk for their young.

If my neighbor just gave birth, I wouldn't knock on her door and ask her for a cup of her breast milk. No matter how much I liked her, no matter how clean she was, I wouldn't drink her milk. It's unappealing and rude. Her milk belongs to her baby. So why would someone want to drink the breast milk of a 1,000-pound animal who never bathes? We'd find that gross if we weren't so conditioned to believe that it's ok.

Of course, most in the media don't delve deeper than reporting that PETA has requested that Ben & Jerry's use human breast milk. And that's ok with PETA; they expect that. They simply want to be in the media spotlight. That's their schtick, and that's fine. We each use our individual and collective talents to pursue a higher goal. While PETA supporters wear chicken costumes to boycott KFC (and gets airtime on the local news), another group is helping pass legislation in a state Senate.

I do find some of PETA's stunts offensive, and some make me cringe and shake my head and wish the organization would be a bit more respectful. But that's the nature of any movement. All of us involved in animal rights are not going to agree all the time. The important thing is that we do agree on the main issues: We need to work to stop people from exploiting, harming and killing animals.

The next time you hear about some crazy PETA protest, dig deeper -- past the outward ridiculousness -- to find the truth of the issue.

(Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.)



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Election '08: Humane Society Endorses Obama/Biden

Just as it is unusual for the National Organization of Women to endorse a political candidate, The Humane Society of the United States has never done so.

Until now.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund, the legislative arm of The HSUS, has endorsed Barack Obama for president.

As an Illinois state senator, [Obama] backed at least a dozen animal protection laws, including those to strengthen the penalties for animal cruelty, to help animal shelters, to promote spaying and neutering, and to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption. In the U.S. Senate, he has consistently co-sponsored multiple bills to combat animal fighting and horse slaughter, and has supported efforts to increase funding for adequate enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal laws to combat animal fighting and puppy mills.
In the HSLF questionnaire that Obama completed, he noted the connection between animal cruelty and other violence.

The HSLF also noted his running mate's long history of animal advocacy.

[Joe] Biden has not only supported animal protection legislation during his career, but has also led the fight on important issues. He was the co-author with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the 108th Congress on legislation to ban the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen. He was the lead author of a bill in the 107th Congress to prohibit trophy hunting of captive exotic mammals in fenced enclosures, and he successfully passed the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On the flip side, while John McCain has supported some animal bills, "he has largely been absent on other issues, and has failed to co-sponsor a large number of priority bills or sign onto animal protection letters that have had broad support in the Senate." He also didn't respond to the HSLF questionnaire.

Yet he did speak at the NRA convention earlier this year, and is the keynote speaker this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance rally—an extremist organization that defends the trophy hunting of threatened polar bears and captive shooting of tame animals inside fenced pens.
And, of course, McCain's running mate does not care about animals.

Gov. Sarah Palin's (R-Alaska) retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures. Her record is so extreme that she has perhaps done more harm to animals than any other current governor in the United States.
Thus, in this historic campaign, the HSLF made the unprecendented decision to endorse a candidate for president -- and it chose Obama.

The Obama-Biden ticket is the better choice on animal protection, and we urge all voters who care about the humane treatment of animals, no matter what their party affiliation, to vote for them.
(Photo courtesy of chicagoist.com.)



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pigs Tortured by Hormel Supplier

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has released an undercover video, documenting three months of abuses that occurred at a pig farm in Iowa that supplies Hormel Foods.

I tried to force myself to watch the video so I could write this blog post, but I couldn't make it through. I've read books about animal abuse on factory farms, I've seen pictures, and I've even seen a few videos. They're all disgusting, of course. But this one was even worse.

When I see animals tortured, I think of my dogs. I imagine people kicking them, beating them. They don't deserve that, and neither did these pigs.

At the beginning of the video, after a blood-curdling scream, we see someone beating a pig and then telling the undercover PETA investigator, "Don't be afraid to hurt 'em."

In the next scene an employee says, "When I get pissed or get hurt or the fuckin' bitch won't move, I grab one of those rods and jam it in her asshole."

In another scene "a worker slams piglets deemed 'runts' headfirst into the concrete floor in an attempt to kill them." These little babies lie in a bloody pile and twitch because they're not dead yet.

I had to stop watching the video after that. But here is a list of other abuses:

• A supervisor shoved a cane into a sow's vagina, struck her on the back about 17 times, and then struck another sow.

• Multiple pigs were beaten with metal gate rods, and lacerations were found on more than 30 sows - which is probably evidence of more abuse.

• A worker hit a young pig in the face four times with the edge of a herding board, and investigators witnessed dozens of similar incidents involving this worker and 11 other workers.

• Two men - including a supervisor - were witnessed jabbing clothespins into pigs' eyes and faces. A supervisor also poked two animals in the eyes with his fingers.

• A supervisor kicked a young pig in the face, abdomen, and genitals to make her move and told PETA's investigator, "You gotta beat on the bitch. Make her cry."

• A worker who weighed an estimated 315 lbs. punched a sow on the back three times and said that he sat on a sow's head.

• An employee sprayed blue paint into the nostrils and face of a sow for over 30 seconds.
Of course, the executives of the company and those at Hormel said the abuse was "completely intolerable, reprehensible" and "completely unacceptable." And the director of science and technology at the National Pork Producers Council also said the abuse was unacceptable.

"Our industry is committed to handling pigs humanely," she said. "My industry is full of good people."
Yeah, looks like it. Unfortunately, history hasn't shown that to be the case -- with pigs or cows or chickens or turkeys. And it's animal-rights groups who have to document the abuse and make it public in order for the industry to take notice.

I'm reading "Slaughterhouse" by Gail A. Eisnitz right now. It was published in 1997 -- 11 years ago. And nothing has changed.



Election '08: NOW Endorses Obama for President

The National Organization of Women has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.

From teachers to social workers, from business owners to college students, women in this country are lining up behind the candidate who is out there every day standing up -- clearly and consistently -- for women. Women of all ages, races and ethnicities are coming together in support of Sen. Obama and his pledge to fulfill this country's promise of equal opportunity for our daughters as well as all our sons.

Although it is very unusual for us to endorse in a presidential election, this is an unprecedented candidate and an unprecedented time for our country.

[...]

NOW supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primary, and now we join with her in saying "NO" -- No Way, No How, No McCain! And we proudly stand arm-in-arm with her in putting our hopes and our dreams, our hard work and our hard-earned money, behind the next President of the United States -- Barack Obama, and his running mate, longtime friend and ally of women, Sen. Joe Biden.
In the past few days I've been reading about how Obama and Sen. John McCain differ on issues important to women.

Equal Pay for Women

Equal pay for equal work. Sounds reasonable, right? If I do the same job as a man, and have the same qualifications, we should make the same amount. But as a large poster in my company's breakroom tells me every day, that's not the case. In the United States a woman makes 77 cents on average for every $1 a man makes. It's even less for women of color. Equal pay has been the law since 1963, but clearly it hasn't worked.

Obama was a co-sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The latter has passed the House, and I can't find McCain's opinion of it.

McCain has said that he supports equal pay for women. Although he opposed the Lilly Ledbetter act.

While McCain wasn't in the Senate to vote on the Ledbetter act, he did voice his opposition to it, saying it would create more lawsuits. (It failed to pass.)

McCain stated his opposition to the bill as he campaigned in rural eastern Kentucky, where poverty is worse among women than men. The Arizona senator said he was familiar with the disparity but that there are better ways to help women find better paying jobs.

"They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else," McCain said.
Sure, women who raised children for 20 years and hadn't been working outside the house may need more education and training to go back to work. But that's not what "equal pay for equal work" means. It's not about women finding better jobs. It's about women getting paid the same as men for the same job. I've had full-time jobs since I graduated college and likely haven't been paid fairly. McCain's saying I need more education? As Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, McCain "just doesn't get it."

Healthcare

Obama supports making health insurance affordable so everyone will be covered. For people who have health insurance through their employer, their premiums would be lower. He'd also create a public plan for people who aren't currently covered by insurance.

McCain will tax the benefits people receive through employers. He would also stop giving businesses tax incentives for providing workers with insurance.

Reproductive Rights

In 1999 McCain was opposed to repealing Roe v. Wade.

"But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."
Now, though, McCain does support repeal of the law. He only supports a women's right to choose except in cases of rape, incest or the endangerment of a woman's life. Obama is pro-choice but wants to work to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Obama is opposed to a proposal by the Bush Administration that "has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion."

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying "the life of a human being."
McCain refused to comment.

McCain voted against bills -- in 2003 and 2005 -- that would force insurance companies to cover birth control. Obama supports mandating this coverage.

While Obama has said abstinence-only education is not enough, McCain supports it.



Monday, September 15, 2008

FBI May Get More Power

New rules that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working on -- and that only have to be approved by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey -- would give the FBI more power. They can go into effect as early as Oct. 1.

The changes would give the FBI's more than 12,000 agents the ability at a much earlier stage to conduct physical surveillance, solicit informants and interview friends of people they are investigating without the approval of a bureau supervisor. Such techniques are currently available only after FBI agents have opened an investigation and developed a reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or that a threat to national security is developing.
What concerns me, of course, is how this will affect our civil liberties.

[The overhaul] also would rewrite 1976 guidelines established after Nixon-era abuses that restrict the FBI's authority to intervene in times of civil disorder and to infiltrate opposition groups.
We've already seen how the FBI likes to infiltrate organizations that disagree with the government -- including peace groups.

Civil-liberties and Arab-American groups worry about the FBI targeting people based on religion or ethnicity. "But top Justice Department leaders, including the attorney general, noted the illegality of racial profiling." So we should feel safe then, since the government never does anything that's illegal, right?

The move comes a year after the Justice Department's inspector general documented widespread lapses involving one of the bureau's most potent investigative tools, secret "national security letters" that FBI agents send to banks and phone companies to demand sensitive information in terrorism probes.
Michael German of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "It is an extraordinarily broad grant of power to an agency that has not proven it uses its power in an appropriate manner."

Monitoring conversations between informants who agree to wear recording devices and subjects of investigations, which now requires the permission of an assistant U.S. attorney, could occur without a prosecutor's approval ...
Protests would also be affected by the new rules.

The new approach would ... expand the investigative techniques that agents could use to include deploying informants. FBI agents monitoring large-scale demonstrations that they believe could turn dangerous also would have new power to use those techniques.
Remember the Republican National Convention? Law enforcement raided homes and arrested peaceful people, including journalists. Imagine what they'd do with even more power.

(Photo of RNC protest courtesy of wsws.org.)



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Protest Makes Me Proud

As you know, I've been feeling pretty stressed and scared about where the presidential campaign has been heading: John McCain and Sarah Palin repeating lies that third-party sources have refuted; media covering "lipstick" issues instead of issues that actually affect Americans, etc.

So when I looked at the pictures taken at the anti-Palin protest Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska, and was reminded that there are sensible, intelligent, informed people in this country -- and so many of them women -- I felt a sense of hope again and an enormous sense of pride. This video brought tears to my eyes.

And then check out what the protesters had to say, in this video.

(Photo courtesy of "Mudflats.")



Election '08: Hundreds Protest Palin ... in Alaska

Thanks to Vegan Outreach, I recently discovered a great blog by a woman who lives in Alaska. Her most recent post is about an anti-Palin rally in Anchorage, which I think speaks volumes as to people's concerns about Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin.

Hundreds of people protesting the policies of Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lined a busy street on Saturday, waving signs and chanting, "Obama!"
I live in a Chicago suburb, and I've never heard of an anti-Obama rally in his home state. I'd also be surprised if Delaware residents have staged an anti-Biden protest.

Even Alaskan residents were surprised by the number of people who turned out.

Basically, in Anchorage, if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it’s a success. So, I thought to myself, if we can actually get 100 people there that aren’t sent by Eddie Burke [a conservative radio host, who read the organizers' phone numbers on the air and encouraged nasty calls], we’ll be doing good.

[...]

Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn’t honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn’t happen here.
Many of the protesters were concerned with Palin's anti-choice stance and feared a return to back-alley abortions.

Barbara Norton, a 56-year-old midwife, stood near a sign that read, "Alaskan Women for Choice."

"I think America does not understand how absolutely extreme her positions are - even to the right of George Bush and John McCain," Norton said. "She is frightening."

[...]

Laura Kimmel, a 40-year-old Anchorage woman expecting her second baby in April, wore a clothes hanger with a sign attached that read, "This is not a surgical instrument. Keep abortions safe and legal."

[...]

Hilary Seitz, 39, attended the rally with her two girls, 8-year-old Abbigale and 11-year-old Taylor. If McCain becomes president and Palin is the VP, Seitz said, she fears what will happen on the Supreme Court and keeping abortion legal.

"It really scares me that if we lose that option, what are women going to do," Seitz said. She said that she was at the rally for her girls and their futures.
(Photo courtesy of "Mudflats".)



Puppy Mills Breed Misery

When I was younger, my family would browse the pet store in the mall while killing time for a movie. We'd look at the cute baby animals, never once wondering where they came from. Never considering that they were viewed not as precious creatures but as inventory.

Puppies -- and kittens, although I've never seen a story about it -- come from mills, facilities that churn out puppies for profit, selling them to pet stores or directly to average people.

In late August 55 dogs were seized in a raid on a puppy mill in Central Illinois.

"They were in deplorable conditions," said Dr. Kathleen McManamon, Douglas County's animal control administrator.

"Most of the adults had sores on their feet from being in wire cages, they had swollen feet, reddened skin and they were urine- and feces-soaked."
Somehow, though, no charges were filed against the owner, due to a lack of evidence. Yet it doesn't appear that he will get the dogs back. Seems shady to me.

The Decatur Herald & Review has published a wonderful story about the future of the dogs and about puppy-mill dogs in general. (Also check out the video on that page.)

"Before you see the dogs, you smell the dogs," [said Carolyn Warnhoff, a volunteer with a Westie rescue.] "Once you smell true puppy mill dogs, you never forget that smell. There's just no describing; it's a mixture of fecal, urine, birth, death. It's a smell you'll never forget."
Holly Crotty, who I know through volunteering with Cairn Rescue USA, said that a key to helping puppy mill dogs is to have patience with them.

"I love mill dogs," she said. "I think when they warm up, they are the most affectionate, loving dogs who feel like they appreciate their second chance at life."

But that doesn't happen right away, she said. It can take days, weeks or months. Lenny, a former mill dog Crotty fostered for nine months, was adopted and returned twice. He hid upstairs for almost the first three months with her.

"The first person who adopted him returned him because they said he wasn't a dog because all he would do was hide in the bedroom," she said.
I've fostered three puppy-mill dogs -- Straggles, Wags and Cookie -- and by far Straggles had the most to overcome, as she was the most timid. Because these dogs live in cages their entire lives, they don't even know what grass is or what toys are. Each day, though, she'd become more trusting and more confident. I enjoyed coming home from work each evening to see what she'd learned that day. I can only assume my dog, Poncho, had helped her a bit while I was away.

The following excerpts from my Foster Dog Log illustrate the condition puppy-mill dogs are initially in and how, despite their horrific experiences, they learn to trust and be loved. The first is from the first full day I had Straggles.

She won't hold her tail up, but she wagged it for the first time -- it was down and wagging -- when I was getting her and Poncho ready to go outside this morning. And she wagged it again this afternoon. I think she wags hers because she sees Poncho's. ... She also took a few steps from the blacktop driveway into the grass in my front yard. I'm glad I have Poncho because he unknowingly shows her how to do things and shows her that it's ok.
Day 3:

After work I walked Poncho and Straggles on separate leashes, and Straggles actually walked on the sidewalk. She was slow and would stop and look around, but we made it down the block and back. I was so proud of her.
Day 4, after reading about a protest planned at an area pet store:

But you know what I'd REALLY like to do? Bring her to the protest. She's a puppy-mill breeder. Or was until recently. The poor thing is scared out of her mind and doesn't know much of anything about how to be a dog. She's learning to walk on a leash; she only ventured into the grass once. She has yet to potty outside. She loves my dog but is scared of me.

And physically she's a mess. Much of her fur is gone, and her nipples are huge. It infuriates me that puppy mills exist, but all that most of the public sees are cute little puppies in pet stores. They don't see the mothers of those dogs.

So I think it'd be great to bring a mother to a pet store, so customers can see how things really are. But it wouldn't be good for her to be in that situation right now.
Day 9:

I saw the most wonderful thing today. My neighbor, Ashley, recently got a puppy and he came out while I was walking Poncho and Straggles, so we stopped to see him. Poncho couldn't care less about the little dude, Rocky, but Straggles actually played with him! She was lying on her tummy and swatting at him, and her tail was wagging, and she'd Army-crawl to get closer to him. And he climbed on her back a couple of times, and she didn't mind at all. And they were play-biting and everything. She looked like a much younger dog. I couldn't believe it! She even knew how hard to bite so she wouldn't hurt him. It was the most fantastic thing!
Day 15:

When Poncho and I come down and get Straggles in the morning, she's all happy. Her tail wags so much that her butt wiggles back and forth.
Ten days after that entry Straggles went to her forever home with a nice couple from Chicago and their young dog, Monty.

With millions of dogs euthanized in this country each year simply because they don't have homes, please don't support puppy mills and pet stores. Please adopt a dog from an animal shelter or from a rescue organization. Petfinder is a great source for finding pets, and if you need further help, please feel free to contact me.

(Photo is of Straggles on Day 5.)



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Election '08: McCain's Healthcare Plan

Last night in Charlie Gibson's second day of interviews with Sarah Palin she mentioned concerns that Americans have right now, including that "people are looking at unaffordable health care for their families."

She's right. But John McCain won't help families; he'll actually make their healthcare nightmares worse. Unfortunately, the mainstream media isn't talking about McCain's healthcare plan, so I'll break it down for you.

You know the health benefits you receive through your employer (if you're lucky enough to have this)? McCain wants to tax those. That means that when you receive your paycheck every week or every two weeks, your take-home pay (net income) will be smaller. Why? Because more of your salary (gross income) will be used to pay taxes on your health benefits.

He says he'd give individuals $2,500 in tax credits and families $5,000 in tax credits to cover this tax increase. But that's not going to help.

Except there's some fine print hidden where McCain hopes no one will see it: his tax credit increases each year only by the normal inflation rate. Your premiums are going to increase way faster — probably around 6-8% per year. That means your taxes are going to go up 6-8% per year too.
Which means that tax credit won't cover the increase in taxes you'll be paying. Also, "the average cost per family for health insurance is $12,000."

I'm conservative with my spending, but if McCain's plan goes into effect, I'm not sure I could pay my bills.

And it gets better. McCain's plan stops giving employers tax breaks for providing insurance, which means employers will likely stop providing insurance.

So that brings us to the uninsured. McCain is hoping that once there are millions of uninsured Americans, insurance companies will lower their costs. In essence, the market will fix everything. That philosophy has worked well in the mortgage industry, right? And if the market doesn't provide a miracle, there are always emergency rooms. Don't worry about preventative care. It's overrated.

(Image courtesy of the AFL-CIO.)




Election '08: Gibson Interviews Palin, Part 2

Last night concluded Charlie Gibson's interview of Sarah Palin. This second part included social issues.

GIBSON: I saw you quoted somewhere as speaking rather admiringly of Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton, during the primary campaign. Do you think Obama should've picked her?

PALIN: I think he's regretting not picking her now, I do. What, what determination, and grit, and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way, she handled those well.
But Palin had told Newsweek the following about Clinton's comments that the media were being extra critical of her during the primary:

"I say this with all due respect to Hillary Clinton ... but when I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or you know maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think you know that doesn't do us any good – women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country."
So much for grace and grit.

GIBSON: Roe v. Wade, do you think it should be reversed?

PALIN: I think it should and I think that states should be able to decide that issue... I am pro-life. I do respect other people's opinion on this, also, and I think that a culture of life is best for America.
"A culture of life" for unborn human fetuses but not for already-born wildlife. We can kill the hell out of those living creatures.

GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. Do you believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is in danger?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed if the life of the mother is endangered.
Pretty scary.

GIBSON: Embryonic stem cell research, John McCain has been supportive of it.

PALIN: You know, when you're running for office, your life is an open book and you do owe it to Americans to talk about your personal opinion, which may end up being different than what the policy in an administration would be. My personal opinion is we should not create human life, create an embryo and then destroy it for research, if there are other options out there... And thankfully, again, not only are there other options, but we're getting closer and closer to finding a tremendous amount more of options, like, as I mentioned, the adult stem cell research.
Unfortunately, President George W. Bush felt the same way and squandered eight years of potentially lifesaving research. Again, Palin cares for beings who aren't born more than she does for those who are already here.

GIBSON: Homosexuality, genetic or learned?

PALIN: Oh, I don't -- I don't know, but I'm not one to judge and, you know, I'm from a family and from a community with many, many members of many diverse backgrounds and I'm not going to judge someone on whether they believe that homosexuality is a choice or genetic. I'm not going to judge them.
Is she saying she doesn't judge gays or doesn't judge people about whether they regard homosexuality as genetic or learned? Sounds like the latter.

GIBSON: Guns, 70 percent of this country supports a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons. Do you?

PALIN: I do not and, you know, here again, life being an open book here, as a candidate, I'm a lifetime member of the NRA. I believe strongly in our Second Amendment rights. That's kind of inherent in the people of my state who rely on guns for not just self-protection, but also for our hunting and for sports, also. It's a part of a culture here in Alaska. I've just grown up with that.

GIBSON: Isn't gun violence in America a health issue? We spend billions of dollars a year every year treating people who are victims of gun violence. Nothing we can do about that?

PALIN: Do I think that all of that gun violence, though, is caused by people pulling a trigger who would have followed any law anyway? No. You start banning guns and you start taking away guns from people who will use them responsibly and use them ethically.
Oh, where to start? No one needs a semiautomatic assault weapon. And, as I said in my blog about Part 1 of this interview, simply because something is cultural, that doesn't mean it's right. One could argue slavery was cultural. Dogfighting and cockfighting are cultural. Female circumcision is cultural. Finally, guns are rarely ever used ethically. They are made to kill.



Friday, September 12, 2008

Help Get Anti-Palin Ad on TV

Defenders of Wildlife wants to air a TV ad in Ohio (a swing state) that graphically shows viewers the aerial hunting Sarah Palin supports, and they need your help to do it.

By donating to this cause, it's a good opportunity to raise awareness about animal issues, while at the same time helping to get Barack Obama elected president. Chop two carrots with one knife, if you know what I'm sayin'.

So please donate whatever amount is appropriate for you and help spread the word about Palin's cruel nature.



Election '08: Palin Speaks!

Sarah Palin has been holed up with John McCain's advisers since she was introduced as his running mate. (They did let her out to give her speech at the Republican National Convention and then whisked her back into seclusion.)

Last night Palin gave her first major interview, to ABC's Charlie Gibson. While "Digging Through the Dirt" is not a political blog, I feel it's important to post information about this election -- even if it doesn't directly pertain to animal rights or to the environment. If McCain and Palin get elected, they will wage war on both.

Although McCain and Palin both support drilling offshore for oil, they disagree on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, as Gibson pointed out in his interview.

GIBSON: ANWR. You favor drilling in the Arctic National Refuge. He does not.

PALIN: I sure do.

GIBSON: You changed him on that? He changing you?

PALIN: I'm going to keep working on that one with him. ANWR, of course, is a 2,000-acre swath of land in the middle of about a 20 million-acre swath of land. Two-thousand acres that we're asking the feds to unlock so that there can be exploration and development.

GIBSON: So, you'll agree to disagree on ANWR?

PALIN: That's exactly right. We'll agree to disagree, but I'm gonna keep pushing that, and I think, eventually, we're all gonna come together on that one.
Wildlife. Refuge. Someone give this woman a dictionary.

Regarding climate change:

GIBSON: But I, color me a cynic, but I hear a little bit of change in your policy there. When you say, yes, now you're beginning to say it is man-made. It sounds to me like you're adapting your position to Sen. McCain's.

PALIN: I think you are a cynic because show me where I have ever said that there's absolute proof that nothing that man has ever conducted or engaged in has had any affect, or no affect, on climate change.
Um, ok, you lying sack of ...:

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, December 4, 2007: "I'm not an Al Gore, doom-and-gloom environmentalist blaming the changes in our climate on human activity, but I'm not going to put my head in the sand and pretend there aren't changes."

Interview with Newsmax, August 28, 2008: "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."
She also criticized Russia's attack on George, saying, "For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable."

Apparently it's wrong for Russia to attack Georgia because Georgia is democratic. But it's ok that the United States attacked Iraq because Iraq isn't democratic.

Several days ago a news analyst on National Public Radio predicted that McCain's advisers would show Palin how to answer questions of foreign-policy experience (which she lacks) by talking about oil, which she's more comfortable with.

"They'll [the advisers] take most of the economic, foreign policy, national-security issues and push it onto terrain that she's comfortable with and make it a question she answers in terms of energy, gas pipelines, oil production and making America oil independent. She's going to do it in that way."
And that's exactly what she tried to do. Incidently, I hate it when people don't answer the question a reporter has asked.

GIBSON: ... When I asked John McCain about your national security credentials, he cited the fact that you have commanded the Alaskan National Guard and that Alaska is close to Russia. Are those sufficient credentials?

PALIN: But it is about reform of government and it's about putting government back on the side of the people, and that has much to do with foreign policy and national security issues. Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that's with the energy independence that I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy, that I worked on as chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the United States.

GIBSON: I know. I'm just saying that national security is a whole lot more than energy.

PALIN: It is, but I want you to not lose sight of the fact that energy is a foundation of national security. It's that important. It's that significant.
And then there's this question -- an easy yes or no, or so it would seem to honest people anyway.
GIBSON: Have you ever met a foreign head of state?

PALIN: There in the state of Alaska, our international trade activities bring in many leaders of other countries.

GIBSON: And all governors deal with trade delegations.

PALIN: Right.

GIBSON: Who act at the behest of their governments.

PALIN: Right, right.

GIBSON: I'm talking about somebody who's a head of state, who can negotiate for that country. Ever met one?

PALIN: I have not ... But, Charlie, again, we've got to remember what the desire is in this nation at this time. It is for no more politics as usual and somebody's big, fat resume maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment, where, yes, they've had opportunities to meet heads of state ...
So much for McCain's bashing of Barack Obama for not having experience. Sounds like Palin doesn't put much credence into McCain's "big, fat resume" and "decades and decades in that Washington establishment."



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lies, Idiocy and Ignorance

I hate lies. I hate idiocy. And I hate ignorance.

A big goal of my blog is to spread the truth, inform readers and motivate others to improve their health and help the planet and animals.

Over the past week, though, I've been getting very frustrated with Sarah Palin's and John McCain's lies, people who believe the lies and those who just don't care.

So this post is devoted to setting the record straight -- and hopefully will provide a bit of a catharsis for me and my blood pressure.

The Bridge to Nowhere

Palin, during her speech at the Republican National Convention, said:

"We suspended the state fuel tax and championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that Bridge to Nowhere. If our state wanted to build a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves."
However, Palin had been the one pushing Congress for money to build the bridge.

In the city Ketchikan, the planned site of the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere," political leaders of both parties said the claim was false and a betrayal of their community, because she had supported the bridge and the earmark for it secured by Alaska's Congressional delegation during her run for governor.
Palin in 2006:

"We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge, and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative."

The Anchorage Daily News quoted her in October 2006 as saying she would continue state funding for the bridge. "The window is now, while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist," she said.
Then after national sentiment turned against the bridge, Palin decided she actually opposed it. But she still accepted the $200 million that Congress had set aside for the project.

Yet on Aug. 31, 2008, McCain implied that Palin rejected the money (emphasis mine).

"Yes, the pork barrel project, a $233 million bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it," McCain said. "She, as governor, stood up and said, we don't need it, and if we need it, we'll pay for it ourselves. Now, that's guts. I saw that, and I said, this, this is what we need in Washington."
Luxury Jet on eBay

You remember when Palin told us about the jet that she got rid of when she became governor?

"While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for. That luxury jet was over-the-top. I put it on eBay."
And on Sept. 5 during a speech in Michigan, McCain said, "You know what I enjoyed the most? She took the luxury jet bought by her predecessor and sold it on eBay. And made a profit."

What actually happened, though, was that Palin put the jet on eBay, but it didn't sell. So then "state officials ... sold it through a broker for $2.1 million -- a loss."

Now the jet is used to fly hunters between Alaska and Russia.

"The problems associated with firearms transport are discouraging many hunters," says Don Causey, President/Publisher of The Hunting Report. "Add to that the wildlife inspection problem hunters face when they try to bring trophies home with them and you have a witches brew of discouraging factors. This service is urgently needed right now by US hunters contemplating trips to Petropavlovsk, Magadan and other hunting centers in Eastern Russia."

The new service will be available between Anchorage, Alaska, and Eastern Russia starting April 1. The start-up strategy involves the use of a Westwind II private jet Larry Reynolds bought from the State of Alaska last August.
Responses to Palin's Animal Antics

Last week I received an e-mail from The Humane Society of the United States that described Palin's record on animals. I forwarded it to a dog-rescue group I belong to, thinking that at least some of the people would be interested in it. And some were. Some, however, were not, and instead of simply deleting the e-mail, they responded and showed their ignorance and speciesism (favoring some species over others). Any mention of politics now has been banned from the group. Here are some of the more asinine comments (unedited):

"I'd just like to add the thought that in Alaska and places like the northwest, etc. hunting is a way of life. Gov. Palin was raised to live that way....those folks eat the meat they shoot...many rely on it to supplement their food income. Now, I could never shoot an animal (unless it was suffering) but I know people that do....they aren't bad people.....most were raised to it. If we really want to feel sorry for animals....let's do more to stop the inhumane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses...etc....the meat that the rest of us eat."
I was able to respond to this one and wrote, "Slavery used to be a way of life, too. And some used that excuse with regard to African-Americans and dog fighting." And, of course, you know how I feel about slaughterhouses. If this woman really cares about animals in slaughterhouses, she wouldn't eat them.

[In response to the woman's comment above, another person wrote the following.] "[Y]ou hit the nail on the head. you have to think of the area that some things take place. stores were so far and few between in some areas and in those rural areas, people were rather poor, it wasn't like city life. they depended on different things to live. "
The discussion began because of Palin's record on animals. I'm confident the reason Palin hunts is not because she can't find a grocery store.

"most hunters have ethics on the treatment of animals. i am not talking about canned hunts or organized hunts where the animals are trapped with no way out. but good old fashioned hunters, they really like animals and respect the life and beauty of those animals. their licenses go towards taking care of the animals in harsh weather etc."
Isn't that what a jealous man thinks as he kills his girlfriend? "I love her so much that I'm going to kill her so no one else can have her." If these people "respect the life and beauty of those animals," why don't they bring a camera into the woods instead of a shotgun?

"I personally believe that some hunting, if moderated helps to keep animals that no longer have natural preditors in check. For example, I live in Maryland where deer are all over. People get killed on the roads because they hit dear and they end up in the car with the people. My own family hit a deer recently. They do a lot of damage to cars and our homes.

"This year my famous hosta garden was all but non-existant. The deer came and ate all of them off to the grown. I've got plans for next year to protect them but this year was a total loss. I've had these hosta for years without such devistation. I have to say that I use to think shooting deer was inhumane. Now I am happy there's a hunting season."
Again, Palin is not advocating hunting to help the animals. (Although I'm against hunting regardless of the reason.) She supports aerial hunting of wolves and bears because those animals kill moose and caribou, which are the animals hunters actually want to kill themselves. And I certainly don't think animals deserve to be murdered because they damage people's property, including beloved hostas.

Pigs with Lipstick

And more recently the media has run with Barack Obama's reference to a pig with lipstick.

"John McCain says he's about change, too," Obama said, leading into a string of ways he contends McCain represents more of the same -- economic policy, taxes, education, foreign policy, campaign tactics. "That's not change. That's just calling something that's the same thing something different.

"You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig," Obama went on, and the crowd erupted into shrieks, whoops and cheers. "You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink, after eight years. We've had enough of the same old thing."
McCain feigned outrage.

On a stop in Virginia aides for Obama said he was just using an old expression to describe that his opponent isn't the candidate of change. But the McCain camp took it differently -- quickly convening a conference call to respond: "I can only deem to be disgraceful comments, comparing our vice presidential nominee, Gov. Palin to a pig. It's clear to me that Sen. Obama owes Governor Palin an apology," McCain said.
First, the expression offends me because it implies that pigs are ugly. Second, I don't believe Obama was calling Palin a pig. Third, McCain is a hypocrite.

During his campaign, McCain took a question from an audience member who asked him about Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan.

"It's eerily reminiscent of what they tried back in 1993. I think they put some lipstick on the pig, but it's still a pig. ..."
Just like Obama's comments, I don't believe that McCain's comments were intended to call someone a pig. (Not that there's anything wrong with pigs.)

While I don't consider the "pigs with lipstick" drama to be about lies, I do consider it idiocy. Putting animals aside for a moment, it offends me that the nation is talking about a stupid expression when we have serious issues we need to address. But it seems that that is the goal of the Republicans.

Nevertheless, with McCain's standing in the polls surging, aides say he is not about to back down from statements he believes are fundamentally true, such as the anecdote about the bridge.

[...]

John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters' opinions of the candidates.

"The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter."
He calls them "these little facts." I call them lies. And, to paraphrase Dennis Kucinich from the Democratic National Convention, it's time the American people woke up and demanded relevant, honest discourse.

(Photo courtesy of The HSUS.)



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Young Veg*ans Have a Head Start in Life

I was 29 when I realized I could become vegetarian and not die of starvation and boredom. I was also 29 when I discovered the animal-rights movement and the horrors that animals endure so people can eat meat.

I feel a bit dumb that I didn't know about these issues until I was almost 30. Eating is a very basic action and one of the first that we encounter. So finding out that what I've been eating for three decades is hurting me, hurting the environment and hurting animals is a bit odd. It's like finding out that I'm breathing wrong. (Although yoga practitioners would probably tell me that, as well.)

I admire children and teens who already know what it took me 30 years to realize: that veg*anism is the way to go and that standing up for animals is to be congratulated, not looked down upon.

Springfield Animal Rights

Last week The State Journal-Register, the daily newspaper in Springfield, Ill., devoted space in its teen section to the issue of animal rights and veg*anism (vegetarianism and veganism). I was thankful to the paper for focusing on these issues, and I was grateful to know that teens, armed with information, are speaking out on behalf of animals.

"Teen forms group to stop animal abuse," written by a high school freshman, told about Ryne Poelker, a high school senior. He went vegetarian his freshman year -- either before or after reading Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation." He is now vegan.

Ryne created Springfield Animal Rights and has staged about 20 protests against KFC to get them to change how they treat chickens.

If you'd like to learn more about Ryne's group, visit its MySpace page.

Bridget McDonald

Also in the SJ-R's teen section was an opinion piece by Bridget McDonald, a junior in high school (not the same school as Ryne's). She's a vegetarian and used her column to educate readers about the damage that meat production does to animals, to slaughterhouse workers, to the environment and to people's health.

She also distances herself from the negative stereotype of an animal-rights activist, urging readers, "Please don't let extremists cloud your view of the entire movement."

Bridget appropriately ends her column with a quotation from a beloved son of Springfield, Abraham Lincoln: "I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being."

Truth on Earth

Sisters Serena, Kiley and Tess are three more teens who seek to educate others about animal cruelty and veganism. With their band, Truth on Earth, they're also trying to raise awareness about child abuse, bullying, war and starvation. Disparate topics? No -- they are all about having compassion for others.

The girls -- ages 18, 17 and 15, respectively -- were raised vegan, and while I admire them, I also admire their parents for having the wisdom and awareness that so many people still don't have.

The inspiration for the type of music Truth on Earth plays comes from "'60s and '70s progressive and classic rock with an influence in R&B, pop, blues, folk and Southern rock." They also give 70% of their profits to the causes they sing about, according to Kiley.

You can listen to several of Truth on Earth's songs on their Web site. I especially like "Factory Farm" because it has an R&B feel, and I got goosebumps when I realized who was telling the story.

Ryne, Bridget, Serena, Kiley and Tess are wonderful examples of strong, compassionate, determined teens who are using their unique talents to speak out on behalf of animals. Keep up your fantastic work!

(Image courtesy of Truth on Earth.)



Monday, September 8, 2008

Farmed-Animal Industry Spending Millions to Quash Animal-Welfare Bill

The second post of my blog -- back in June, right after my "Welcome" post -- is about Californians for Safe Food, a front group for animal agriculture that opposes a California ballot initiative that will phase out gestation crates, veal crates and battery cages in that state.

Ironically, of course, the entities donating to Californians for Safe Food aren't California residents interested in safe food. They are animal abusers -- in the form of egg producers, dairy farms, poultry farms, etc. -- from all over the country. And they are donating millions of dollars to defeat the modest animal-welfare measure.

The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act would allow some animals a tiny bit more room than they have now. Pregnant pigs lie in gestation crates that are so small, the pigs cannot turn around. Male calves, only days or weeks old, are forced to stand in veal crates that, again, are so small they cannot turn around. Chickens in battery cages are crowded with other chickens and live in a space that's smaller than a sheet of paper.

Why is the farmed-animal industry opposed to phasing out these cruel cages? Because to do so would mean a loss of profits. This industry, like other animal abusers, only cares about money. Making animals live in confined, squalid conditions requires less money, thereby giving the abusers more of a profit.

Take a look here at the many meat and egg producers who have donated to crush the animal-welfare measure. You may not recognize their names, but when you go to a restaurant or buy meat at the grocery store, how do you know that you're not supporting them?

I don't live in California and can't vote on this initiative. But it still concerns me and affects everyone. The flesh and egg producers think they can deceive the American public by donating millions to quash the ballot initiative.

If you live in California, be sure to vote in support of the initiative. And everyone, regardless where you live, let's show this industry that we don't like their tactics or their abuse of animals. Stop eating eggs and meat at least until after Election Day (Nov. 4) to show this industry we won't stand for deception or animal abuse!

(Photo courtesy of HumaneCalifornia.org. Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary)



U.N. Climate Expert: Reduce Meat Consumption to Combat Climate Change


In 2006 the United Nations released a report saying that meat production releases more greenhouse gases (leading to global climate change) than all of the cars, trucks, ships, planes and trains in the world.

"Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems," senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official Henning Steinfeld said. "Urgent action is required to remedy the situation."
Today the U.N.'s top climate expert, Nobel-Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri, will call on the world to reduce its consumption of meat as a way to combat climate change.

Pachauri, a vegetarian, urges people to have at least one meat-free day a week and then to continue to reduce their consumption.

He'll speak at a meeting organized by Compassion in World Farming. Joyce D'Silva of CIWF said the following:

"Surveys show people are anxious about their personal carbon footprints and cutting back on car journeys and so on; but they may not realise that changing what's on their plate could have an even bigger effect."
Going meat-free one day a week (or even going vegetarian, for that matter) is so easy. For tips and advice, search the Internet, click on the left column of my blog for a free vegetarian starter guide or e-mail me with questions.

(Image courtesy of treehugger.com. The pie chart illustrates the areas of meat production that contribute to climate change. Click chart for a bigger version.)



Friday, September 5, 2008

Animal Abusers Release "Report" from AR2008

Finally!

I've been waiting almost a month for my favorite animal abusers -- those in animal "agriculture" -- to release the report from their spy at AR2008.

Fortunately, the Oklahoma Farm Report did not let me down. (How many of you boys did I see in the audience during the Republican National Convention?)

Unfortunately (or fortunately), their spy is an idiot.

[A]nimal rights attorney Sean Day who emphasized that every step made to move animal agriculture towards activists' definition of animal welfare was a step towards animal liberation.
Day was unequivocally opposed to the proposal in California that calls for a phasing out of gestation and veal crates and battery cages. (I support it.)

The spy also took a comment by Steve Hindi completely out of context. The founder of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) is opposed to using violence to further animal rights. He compared those who use violence to al-Qaida. I completely disagree with this comparison, however. But look how the animal abusers use his words:

And Steve Hindi, President of the egregiously misnamed Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), exhibited his animal instincts when he wondered aloud, "You want media? Al Qaeda gets media....Why don't we get that?"
This report also accuses animal-rights activists of trying to "co-opt environmentalism," odd considering Debra Erenberg of RAN, an environmental organization, encouraged AR activists to get involved in environmental causes.

The report also underestimates the number of people in attendance, saying "roughly 400" people were there when, in fact, the number is around 900.

I also question this statement: "The majority of attendees at the meeting, held in Washington, DC ... were middle-aged, single women." First, the conference was actually in Alexandria, Va. Second, I'm not middle-aged, and I think the majority of people were younger. Perhaps the spy should have paid more attention to what was said than to women's ring fingers.

(Photo courtesy of Justice and Compassion.)



HSUS Defends Reward in Firebombings

On Aug. 2 two researchers from the University of California were the victims of firebombs. One had his car firebombed. The other his house -- and he, his wife and two kids escaped from the second floor.

Law enforcement and unfortunately the mainstream media were quick to say these crimes were the work of animal-rights activists, even though no one has claimed responsibility, no one has been charged with the crimes, and no one has been convicted. Also, it's still unclear if at least one of the "victims" even conducts experiments on animals.

As pressure mounted for animal-advocacy organizations to denounce "terrorism" by animal-rights activists -- even though no one has been charged -- The Humane Society of the United States donated $2,500 to catch the person or people who committed the crimes.

I held off from blogging about this issue for two reasons. First, animal-rights activists may not have even been involved. While I don't agree with violence and don't use that as a means of helping animals, I didn't feel a need to denounce it because that would be implying that I believed animal activists were involved in the firebombings.

Second, I didn't blog about The HSUS's reward money because I don't like to criticize people or groups who work on behalf of animals. While I may disagree with some aspects of animal-advocacy organizations, I do support and am grateful for the work they do to help animals.

Now, though, after reading Wayne Pacelle's recent blog post, I've decided to comment. Pacelle, the president of The HSUS, writes this:


A few critics have expressed anger that The HSUS put $2,500 toward a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime. Several assumed that The HSUS had presupposed that animal people were responsible for the attacks.

We hadn't.
He then goes on to say what some people have suggested, that perhaps the perpetrators were people who support animal research. After all, support for a California bill protecting animal abusers, including researchers, grew after the firebombings. (And the Animal Liberation Front, who law enforcement assumed was behind the incidents, never claimed responsibility, which is not characteristic of them.)


[If] the perpetrators of the Santa Cruz attacks turn out to be agents hostile to animal protection, it would not surprise me, because this is a tactic that malicious forces have used in the past to discredit many good causes.

I'd feel especially good if our reward money helped to catch an infiltrator and exposed this person to the harsh glare of public opinion. And if it does turn out that the criminals were people who claim to be animal advocates, then I will be glad that The HSUS helped to root them out ...
To some extent, Pacelle's explanation for why he offered the reward money makes sense. He wanted to catch whoever did damage to the movement, whether it was movement supporters or the opposition.

Except for one thing.

In the press release that The HSUS sent out Aug. 4 announcing the reward money, no mention was made suggesting the firebombings may have been the work of anti-animal people. It implied that the perpetrators were animal-rights activists. No doubt about it.


The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward up to $2,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest, and conviction of the person or people responsible for setting firebombs on a porch and in a car belonging to two University of California, Santa Cruz researchers in separate incidents early Saturday.

"One cannot claim to be an animal protection advocate and threaten violence against other people, even if we disagree with what they are doing," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "This behavior is antithetical to the core principles of the humane movement."
Now, I do support most of what The HSUS does. Its employees are hard-working, caring people.

But to release an e-mail a month after offering the reward, saying that The HSUS all along considered that the perpetrators could have been anti-animal people, is ridiculous. Because at the time these incidents were news, The HSUS instead condemned animal-rights activists, thereby hurting our movement and strengthening calls for labeling all of us terrorists.

(Image courtesy of Satya magazine.)