Becoming Well Informed

It’s a wonder that the present world we all live in, populated by mass media and a wizardry of information, is so bereft of well informed people. I can’t begin to express the importance of keeping oneself informed and educated. The immeasurable culture one possesses from a quest for knowledge can greatly improve any life.

At the advent of the internet, we had before us an information superhighway. Even before it began it was well presumed that it would become inundated with garbage. Pornography (not that I’m complaining) is rampant of course, but not just that. Every other mindless, inane purge of entertainment is on display as well. And it’s not good entertainment either. The type of entertainment we find on television in the form of reality shows, god awful sitcoms, and celebrity gossip is vast and popular. This is what takes the place of meaningful news programs, discussion venues, and educational television. Interestingly, this entertainment that has become so popular is not only trash, but it isn’t even good trash. It’s poor entertainment at best. The same goes for the internet. A ton of information can be culled from the internet, and even TV, yet it is brokered for our attention.

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Taking the time to get your mind in shape is the most important thing any human being could ever do.

What’s ironic is the amount of people who complain how obtuse society is becoming, yet nothing changes and everyone complains. If we educate ourselves, we can save our culture, become interesting people and arm ourselves with the tools to tackle any obstacles life sets in front of us. It really doesn’t take much effort.

The History Channel used to teach us history. Sure, it was all the history about Adolph Hitler, but at least he wasn’t aided by aliens as that channel would like you to believe.

People, the ones responsible for our collective idiocy, can also change the culture by keeping up on recent and past events. I don’t know what to say to truly inspire someone to give a damn about using their brain. It’s the best I can do.

Animal Rights Legislation: Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013

The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 S. 820/H.R. 1731 is a bipartisan bill proposed by legislators such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Reps. Kurt Schrader (D, OR), Jeff Denham (R, CA), Sam Farr (D, CA), and Mike Fitzpatrick (R, PA). It establishes a minimum federal standard for egg production that would satisfy conflicting state laws concerning the same measure. This bill has been promoted by both animal welfare activists as well as egg producers such as United Egg Producers that represents over 90 percent of egg producing farmers in the United States.

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The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 proposes:

  • A phase-in method that would require that conventional cages be replaced by colony housing systems that will double the space chickens are allowed.
  • Environmental improvements that offer perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas to facilitate their natural behavior.
  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons in the US that state: “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free-range hens”.
  • Prohibit feed- or water-withdrawal molting to extend the laying cycle.
  • Require standards of euthanasia of egg-laying hens supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
  • Restrict the ammonia levels found in hen houses.
  • Prohibit the transport and sale of egg products that do not meet these specifications.
  • Explicitly state that this bill applies only to commercial egg production.

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The purview of this bill is to improve the substandard conditions of egg-laying hens. It is an improvement to the already substandard (to say the least) conditions that hens suffer for egg production. Hens are currently offered 48 to 67 square inches of space. This measure would increase their spaces to a minimum of 124 to 144 square inches of space over the next 15 to 16 years. California has an approved measure that would implement these conditions sooner.

This bill being supported by both the Humane Society and egg production farmers does improve hens’ living conditions while sustaining the egg industry. It is a bipartisan compromise and one worthy of support by both sides of the aisle. That said, this bill merely offers slight relief to the conditions hens must suffer for the commercial egg industry. The horrible fact is, this bill needs support by anyone favoring the improvement of hens’ living standards. It’s a double edged sword, and in my opinion does not go far enough. It needs support however, and anything is better than nothing.

Below are videos uncovering the conditions of hens who are forced to produce their embryonic fluid for human consumption.

Animal Rights Legislation: Puppy Protection Act

I would like to focus on animal rights measures considered at the federal level. This will be the first article in a series I will be writing concerning the broad aspect of animal rights legislation. In this article we will analyze the Puppy Protection Act S. 1478/HR 3058 (PPA) that was defeated by the 107th Congress in 2002.

The bill was first presented by Senators Rick Santorum (R, PA) and Dick Durbin (D, IL). It was an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) but was subsequently defeated by the US House of Representatives. The Farm bill H.R. 2646 was passed by the House, however, it did not include the puppy mill provision. The PPA imposed limits on litters for breeding females, a minimum breeding age of one year for females, and also a three strikes rule for violators. The bill would also oversee proper socialization among dogs and humans as well to minimize behavioral issues.

Below you will find a link to sourcewatch.com containing information that outlines the definition of puppy mills.

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The PPA would have protected laboratory animals along with breeding done commercially by kennels and pet stores. Lobbyists opposed to this bill can be accredited for its defeat. Such lobbyists include The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). This organization has made it known that it puts science above the emotions people feel towards animals, particularly in their opposition to ending the force feeding of ducks for the production of foie gras. Foie gras is the cruel treatment of ducks that causes their liver to swell so that people in high end restaurants can consume these duck livers. The AVMA is an organization that, despite its name, puts the agricultural industry ahead of the welfare of defenseless creatures subjected to inhumane, and many times outrageous, treatment. Other lobbyists in opposition to the PPA also include the American Kennel Club (AKC) which proclaims to be a “national organization devoted to the advancement and welfare of pure-bred dogs”. In truth, they are an organization that has lobbied aggressively in favor of commercial breeding and has opposed several humane treatment legislation bills such as the PPA. They strongly promote the breeding of pure bred dogs and spend much of their time, money, and resources on any limitations to the commercial industry for the purpose of humane treatment. Patti Strand, a board member of the AKC who also co-founded the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) had this to say in a statement about the PPA bill:

“The PPA was inspired by special interest groups that fund raise using emotional animal welfare issues. As such, it was based on sound bites and depended on evidence from those who aim to restrict all dog breeding. NAIA supports the AKC’s conclusion that there is no basis in current science and no consensus among breeders, veterinarians or animal behaviorists as to what constitutes acceptable socialization standards.”

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The commercial trade of animals is at the forefront of the opposition to their humane treatment. Claims of emotional reasoning are used in their attacks. Emotional reasoning is certainly correct and is hardly a reason to write off animal activists and/or legislation favoring the humane and ethical treatment of animals. To oppose this presumes that these living creatures have no right to independence and freedom, and that they are simply on earth for human beings to exploit and commodify. It is a gross injustice to disregard the abuses of animals for the promotion of human development and commerce. Arguments against animal suffering needs no scientific analysis proving their worth. We, as a species ourselves, must respect their existence and treatment as we are all members of the animal kingdom.

Midterm Voter Turnout

I would like to point out the importance of taking part in our government and fulfilling our civic duties. In 2006, during the midterm elections, a disheartening 37 percent of Americans showed up to the polls. I’ve tried wrapping my head around why so many eligible voters don’t bother to voice their opinion yet are likely to express disdain for Congress as we’ve seen their approval ratings hit record lows. Despite these miserable ratings, members of Congress are continually reelected.

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So it’s been said that everyone hates Congress, yet they love their Congressman. It’s important to understand that the benefits constituents may gain from any particular Congressperson is at the peril of the the governing body in aggregate. Ear marking and pork barrel spending are employed equally by both major parties. The gridlock that has taken place is debatable as to which party is at fault.

It is amazing, the low voter turnout we see in midterm elections. More amazing is the contempt that people feel for Congress despite their low turnout. Should it then be considered that no more than 37 percent of the voting public has merit in their complaints? Should no more than 37 percent of the people who complain even be considered? Their voices won’t be heard by Congress. Why should they be? Politicians tend to pay the most attention to their core constituents. Even still, of those who vote and complain, they still seem to reelect the same politicians every election cycle.

So who is to blame? Congress, or the people who reelect our politicians that comprise the government? Is the congressional body more incompetent than any given uninformed citizen? If everyone took a little time to educate themselves on the political process and made credible efforts to voice their opinions at the polls, then not only will intransigent, feckless Congresspeople certainly have their careers in jeopardy, but the ones who do remain in government will have to listen more closely to the American people.

Multiculturalism and Immigration History in the United States II: Origins of Modern Immigration

My last post on this segment covered some past views on immigration in the U.S. over the last couple centuries. I want to take this time to cover what I feel to be the horrendous origins over the outright xenophobic and racist campaign covering the propaganda of what has come to be known as illegal immigration. I want to highlight the groups responsible for the mass public hysteria over the fears of such illegal immigration, beginning with FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the opinions about this politically active organization from The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The modern Latino immigration debate can be dated back to Jan 2, 1979 with the founding of FAIR by a man by the name of John Tanton. John Tanton, a man who has a remarkable history of making racially insensitive, and inflammatory remarks concerning the fear of losing his white identity to the influx of Latino immigration, and fears “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” This is the leader of the debate, its founder, its initial propagator, and a man fond of making blatantly white nationalist remarks such as this one. FAIR has outright opposed the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 which made illegal previously racist immigration quotas. FAIR has since lobbied for strict immigration quotas to be reinstated “at the lowest feasible levels”. In 1997, FAIR president Dan Stein had this to say to Tucker Carlson:

“Immigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing … Many of them hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.”
— FAIR President Dan Stein, interviewed by Tucker Carlson, Oct. 2, 1997 (SPLC)

This horrible rhetoric is the same we have heard since the early 20th century and dating back throughout the 19th century. Simply, this rhetoric and more, along with Neo Nazi associations, gives us plenty of insight into where these debates originated. Just like the historical comments made concerning immigration, these remarks have proven time and again to be seriously unfounded and false. It is this rhetoric against migration, which has only benefited our nation over time, that has polarized the far right in this country. These are racial theories, fears of Caucasians becoming a minority, and the slandering of multicultural peoples in a nation that is considered ‘white owned’ by opponents.

We’ve seen the Arizona Senate Bill SB 1070 severely gutted by the Supreme Court. The founder of this bill, former Republican Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, was the bill’s principle author. His bill naturally received vast support from FAIR. Russell Pearce called for a renewal of 1950’s immigration enforcement, coining the campaign, “Operation Wetback”. He has emailed supporters of the bill with texts by the white separatist group National Alliance, which hosts Holocaust deniers and conspiratorial theories of multiculturalism being a Jewish, anti-white movement. Pierce has also had questionable associations with alleged child murderer and suicide victim, J.T. Ready, a known Neo Nazi supporter and former candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives.

Multiculturalism has been effective in growing our nation, and we are one of the few nations that can still keep our general political ideals intact while hosting multitudes of peoples throughout history. When looking back at the authors of this debate, including the Tea Party movement, we can easily choose which side we stand on, and refute the veracity of such outrageous claims.

Legal fight for GMO labeling

Recently, we’ve seen various measures proposed across a few of our states in the U.S. for the disclosure of genetically modified foods (GMO). What we have seen is a huge backlash against such measures, and exorbitant amounts of money infused into these campaigns to keep secret how our food and seeds are commercially processed.

Some of the names behind these campaigns aren’t a big mystery. Among the proponents can be found industries such as DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer, and DOW. Companies who have a huge interest in not only keeping their names under wraps in this fight, but also the more obvious reasons for keeping the truths about their GMO products as quiet as possible. What they would like is for us as citizens to not know what we are consuming. They have fought this battle with rhetoric questioning the legitimacy of the science behind whether GMOs are actually harmful to us. The fact remains, that whether it be proven or not, our food and seed productions are being altered… genetically altered, and for many of us, we simply wish to know what’s being genetically engineered so we can make a choice as to whether to consume these products or not.

The popularity over organic foods has been growing, plant based diets are on the rise, and an awareness of the man-made restructuring of agriculture is increasingly becoming a hot topic. Personally, I couldn’t prove to you the detriment of consuming GMO foods, or growing GMO seeds, but that has actually been rather irrelevant over this debate. What is relevant is the suspicious nature of using the science behind such practices to try and keep these practices quiet. Whether it is seriously harmful to our bodies or not doesn’t need to be proven. If my food is being restructured somehow, then I, like many others, feel we have a right to know which foods are being restructured genetically.

The fight against GMO labeling that comes from industries such as DOW and Monsanto are particularly troubling considering these are the companies who have brought us Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. A product used for the mass destruction of vegetation in the fields of Vietnam, and long known to cause serious health issues. Now Monsanto has genetically engineered seeds to withstand the effects of their powerful herbicides. They have done this by infusing herbicidal genes into the seeds themselves. These seeds, and their herbicides are what we consume, along with a myriad of pesticides.

There may be plenty of people who have no problem with consuming these foods, but there are a growing number of people who would obviously choose not to. The fight isn’t about banning these consumables, but simply shedding a little light on the matter, and giving us a choice, plain and simple. It is outrageous to think that 40 million dollars, matched against 13 million dollars was used in California to to kill Proposition 37 which would have required the labeling of genetically engineered food. One wonders why such a gross amount of money was spent to to kill a seemingly harmless bill. Who would lose out if they were labeled? Do companies such as Monsanto not want us to know what they’re doing? Why not? And it is especially disconcerting to learn that the fight against GMOs has been waged by both political parties. It was in California that the Democratic committee, when sending out fliers on which measures the Democrats supported, a No on 37 was included in that. I won’t even go into the absurdity of a political party suggesting what measures to vote on with no argument for against the measure, as though we were all blind sheep.

Multiculturalism and Immigration History In the United States I

Immigration policy has been a contentious issue practically throughout our entire history. If we were to take a look back on historical policy governing immigration reform, then hopefully we can shed some light on the culture of America, and the issues of the past comparable to the modern influx of undocumented immigrants.

A popular way of referring to immigrants since the 1980’s has been to call them illegal aliens. After this pejorative term was abandoned, we adopted the slightly less offensive term of illegal immigrant. Now in 2013, unrepresented migrants to the U.S. are still widely considered to be “illegal immigrants”. No person in the United States can be considered “illegal”. The unreported stay of any person in the United States cannot be labeled criminal until they are charged by a court and convicted.  Essentially, until the Court tells you that you have done something wrong, then in this country, you are innocent. That said, it is reprehensible that we should refer to any individual who has crossed our border as a criminal, or “illegal” in any sense until they are caught, and charged by the courts. There have been many people to cross our borders due to political strife without first asking permission. If that person happens to be a refugee who does this, we are far less quick to consider that person illegal.

Since the founding of this nation, the American people have continued to slander, and libel immigrant peoples of all sorts. German and Irish migration began in the early half of the Nineteenth century. Benjamin Franklin was quoted in a letter:

“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or Customs any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”

When the Chinese began immigrating to the U.S. prior to the 1870’s, after a brief acceptance of them, their migration came to be known as the Yellow Peril. Chinese immigrants built our railroads, mined our coal and participated in the Gold Rush of 1849. Congress would later draft the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. During Irish migration by the mid-Nineteenth century, they were depicted as ape-like and bestial. There was a fear by Protestants at the time that Irish Catholics would be overly loyal to the Pope and try to subvert the government. A national literacy test was implemented in 1917, in which MA Senator, Henry Cabot Lodge, was quoted as stating:

“[The test] will bear most heavily on the Italians, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, and Asiatics, and very lightly, or not at all upon English-speaking emigrants or Germans, Scandinavians, and French.”

Many national immigration quota laws were also adopted in the U.S. during the 1920’s until the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 repealed all quotas.

Institutional bias, racism, and general antipathy towards migrants throughout history has been prevalent since the conception of the Union. We must consider how poorly the Irish have been treated throughout the Nineteenth century, and basically Catholics in general. The underlying fear of immigration is the cultural impact, and the fear of the infusion of new ideals in place of hardened traditions. The Grapes of Wrath tells an abrupt story of how migrant Oklahomans were treated in California during the great dust bowl of the 1930’s. Even interstate immigration can be an ugly affair.