Thursday, December 29, 2005



A PBS mini-series this past summer about life on the farm once again showed idyllic farms, with chickens walking freely in the barnyard and pigs preparing comfortable straw beds on which to sleep--the type of farms that have largely been replaced by gigantic factory farm operations. Why would a supposedly "educational" network convey this now mostly-fairy-tale version of a farm? Why not show the new real thing--factory farms with tens of thousands of confined animals? This is where the vast majority of farm animals today live.

Turns out the show was sponsored by Monsanto, which manufactures bovine growth hormone (BGH). BGH increases cows' milk output to far beyond normal, but takes a toll on the cows' long-term health and well-being. Understandably, Monsanto would rather have viewers believe that dairy cows still graze peacefully in green pastures, rather than show them the reality: cows in "dry-lot," "zero-grazing" dairies, standing and sleeping on mud and their own excrement, suffering from swollen udders and painful mastitis infections. Monsanto would probably prefer that the public not know that half of all dairy cows today are lame by the time they're five years old, the price of BGH forcing all that milk through their bodies and leaching calcium from their bones. The viewers are also shielded from finding out that standard practice on farms is to load those worn out five-year old cows onto a truck, packed very tightly, so they can make the long trip (up to 36 hours) to the slaughterhouse. (Normal lifespan for a dairy cow is 25 years.)

So PBS dutifully presents the sponsor's sugar-coated version of reality. They keep viewers in the dark about the effects of their purchases, so as not to anger the sponsor. Isn't that special?

And they say television is too liberal. (And PBS is supposed to be the most liberal of them all.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005



Supporters of the war in Iraq sometimes claim that it's impossible to support the troops and oppose the war. I disagree.

-- Why, for example, can't parents of soldiers in Iraq feel that the war is unjustified yet at the same time feel compassion for their sons and daughters in harm's way, and pride for their heroism?

-- Citizens can disagree with the reasons we went into Iraq and argue that we should be pursuing alternatives to war, but at the same time let the troops know unambiguously that our hearts are with them.

-- Given that we have men and women stationed in a war zone, we want the best for them, regardless of whether we should be at war.

-- Some who oppose the war have shown their support for the troops by expressing outrage at President Bush's cuts in veteran benefits. Many Americans who oppose the war feel that, partly out of respect for those who risk their lives in this operation, the President should be more forthcoming about our reasons for invading and occupying Iraq.

-- Support for the troops does not equate to agreement with policies that affect them, and with which they had nothing to do. It could be argued that calling for an end to an unnecessary war is the truest form of support for the troops.

-- I don't agree with the assertion that supporting the troops but opposing the war gives a confusing, mixed message to the troops. In my opinion, such a sentiment is condescending. The troops can distinguish between loyalty to them as people and opposition to Bush administration policies. Some soldiers have expressed that same dichotomy; they have reservations about the war, and about how it has been waged, but they approach their jobs with professionalism. I suspect that the "mixed message" charge is not well-thought out, or perhaps it is just divisive rhetoric that, rather disgustingly, employs disingenuous concern for the troops' morale in order to promote an extension of an ill-conceived, ill-planned war that will surely kill many more soldiers and civilians as it plods toward an ill-defined goal.

-- I don't trust the administration when it proclaims its support for the troops. Given that most of the top administration officials architecting and selling the war spent no time in the military, I'm suspicious of their avowed respect for the troops. Using soldiers as backdrops for political speeches, and calling criticism of the war unpatriotic and damaging to troop morale seems to me to be just another shamelessly manipulative ploy to further questionable goals in Iraq that predate 9-11. You get the troops deployed in Iraq under false pretenses, then once they're there, you say "we can't stop now" because it will hurt the troops morale. Such contrived patriotism and use of the troops as political pawns shows contempt not only for the men and women in uniform but for the American people.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005



Question to churches holding fundraisers at which meat and dairy is served: How does "blessed are the merciful" square up with factory farms?



I'm going to a New Year's Eve party for the first time in ten years. My plan is to dance and throw my back out.

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