As if they voluntarily accept their fate

“This is what we need in this county,” Sonoma County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tim Tesconi told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “[Marin Sun founder and CEO David Evans] couldn’t open it soon enough as far as we’re concerned,” Jocelyn Brabyn at Salmon Creek Ranch near Bodega added.[1] Read more

  1. [1]Robert Digitale, “Marin Sun Farms gets final OK to reopen Petaluma slaughterhouse,” Press Democrat, March 26, 2014,

Miley Cyrus and the ‘patriarchal bargain’

For reasons unknown to me, Ms. Naughty posted a link to a blog entry she wrote last October, entitled “Patriarchal Bargains, Agency and The Authentic Feminist Sexuality™[1] on her twitter time line. Intrigued, and having apparently missed it previously, I read it. Read more

  1. [1]Ms. Naughty [pseud.], “Patriarchal Bargains, Agency and The Authentic Feminist Sexuality™,” Ms. Naughty’s Porn for Women, October 17, 2013,

The absolutist’s dilemma: John Mackey’s eggs

Update, February 28, 2015: Since writing this post, I’ve learned that there is a physical cost to hens when we take their eggs, that they will lay more eggs to replace the ones taken. So the nutrition one obtains from eggs comes at direct cost to the hens that lay them. John Mackey’s position becomes far less tenable in this light.

In the course of an ethics class I took for my Ph.D. program, I grappled with the problem that an absolutist vegan position is untenable. Mostly, I focused on the question of honey, in which we notice the abuses of bees, but not the mass killings of insects that occur whenever we drive a car, or as trucks deliver food to supermarkets. I also pointed out that some insects are a threat to human health or even to our companion animals. Finally, even focusing on bees, many of the crops which vegans eat depend on ‘enslaved’ bee pollination.[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The inevitability of speciesism,” December 7, 2012,

Rich judging poor, whites judging Blacks, and men judging women: How so-called ‘justice’ is blind to privilege

I have numerous objections to what passes for ‘justice’ in the United States. Possibly the most important is that the system strongly favors the wealthy, with the sorts of offenses they more often commit more often treated as ‘civil’ offenses or as misdemeanors, often subject only to fines, while the offenses the poor commit more often are more often treated as felonies, with mandatory prison time. The poor—and especially people of color—are discriminated at every stage of the system, from who is suspected, to who is investigated, to who is arrested, to who is charged, to who is convicted, to who is sentenced how harshly.[1] It seems that police (and college students) “were far more likely to overestimate the ages of young black boys than young white boys; they were also less likely to view black children as innocent.” [2] In Miami Gardens, police arrested a man for trespassing at his place of employment not once or twice, but sixty-two times.[3] New York City’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ program is blatantly racist and has been found to be so in a court of law.[4] The anecdotal evidence of police shooting or otherwise abusing people of color far exceeds my capacity to accumulate,[5] and I have previously dealt with this issue in a posting on the Trayvon Martin case,[6], and in a research journal entry about some graffiti I found in Oakland, California.[8] The bulk of my analysis has been in that research journal entry, in which I wrote (with the footnotes integrated with those in this posting): Read more

  1. [1]Marc Ambinder, “The Full Wright Transcript,” Atlantic, April 28, 2008,; Steven E. Barkan, Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, 3rd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006); Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York: Seven Stories, 2005); Democracy Now!, “From Dorner to Waco to MOVE Bombing, A Look at Growing Militarization of Domestic Policing,” February 15, 2013,; Democracy Now!, “Cornel West: Obama’s Response to Trayvon Martin Case Belies Failure to Challenge ‘New Jim Crow’,” July 22, 2013,; Democracy Now! “Freed Ex-Black Panther Marshall “Eddie” Conway on 44 Years in Prison & FBI Surveillance,” March 5, 2014,; Courtney Garcia, “Report finds discrimination rampant in criminal justice, 1 in 3 black males will go to prison,” Grio, October 18, 2013,; Fredrick Harris, “Policing the Police,” review of Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party, by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, London Review of Books 35, no. 12 (June 20, 2013),;  Crystal Hayes, “Coping with the Zimmerman verdict, through letters from my incarcerated father,” Grio, July 20, 2013,; Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004); Lynn Sweet, “Wright at the National Press Club, April 28, 2008. Transcript,” Chicago Sun-Times, April 28, 2008,
  2. [2]Katie McDonough, “Study: Police see black children as less innocent and less young than white children,” Salon, March 11, 2014,
  3. [3]Julie K. Brown, “In Miami Gardens, store video catches cops in the act,” Miami Herald, November 22, 2013,; Lance Dixon and Julie Brown, “Miami Gardens defends cops accused of harassing, rousting,” Miami Herald, November 22, 2013,; David Drumm, “Miami Gardens Police Arrest Man For Trespassing At His Place Of Employment 62 Times,”, November 23, 2013,; Melanie Eversley, “Miami-area police agency charged with racial profiling,” USA Today, November 22, 2013,; Natasha Lennard, “Store videos capture a year of police racism,” Salon, November 22, 2013,
  4. [4]Associated Press, “Judge: N.Y.’s stop-frisk crossed line,” SFGate, January 8, 2013,; Ryan Devereaux, “‘We Were Handcuffing Kids For No Reason’: Stop-And-Frisk Goes On Trial,” Nation, March 28, 2013,; Joseph Goldstein, “Recording Points to Race Factor in Stops by New York Police,” New York Times, March 21, 2013,; Joseph Goldstein, “Judge Rejects New York’s Stop-and-Frisk Policy,” New York Times, August 12, 2013,; Jennifer Gonnerman, “Officer Serrano’s Hidden Camera,” New York, May 19, 2013,; Natasha Lennard, “Stop-and-frisk program in Bronx ruled unconstitutional,” Salon, January 9, 2013,; Barack Obama, “Transcript: Obama Speaks of Verdict Through the Prism of African-American Experience,” New York Times, July 19, 2013,; Justin Peters, “The Heroic New York City Cop Who’s Trying to Stop Stop-and-Frisk,” Slate, May 22, 2013,; Adam Ramirez, “NYPD ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ Policy Ruled Unconstitutional,” Findlaw, January 10, 2013,;
  5. [5]Democracy Now! “Killed at Home: White Plains, NY Police Called Out on Medical Alert Shoot Dead Black Veteran, 68,” March 29, 2012,; Josh Eidelson, ” ‘Profoundly offensive, and an incredible waste’: Why are we busting drug users?” Salon, November 25, 2013,; John Eligon, “Florida Case Spurs Painful Talks Between Black Parents and Their Children,” New York Times, July 17, 2013,
  6. [7]
  7. [6]David Benfell,”Open season,” Not Housebroken, July 16, 2013,, in a posting on the racial make-up of the prison population,[7]David Benfell, “Thinking about prisoners and institutionalized bigotry,” Not Housebroken, August 5, 2009,
  8. [8]David Benfell, “Cops, gangs, and the conflation of roles,” August 6, 2011,

We are the enemy

William Plummer, a senior Huawei executive in the United States, said the company had no idea it was an N.S.A. target, adding that in his personal opinion, “The irony is that exactly what they are doing to us is what they have always charged that the Chinese are doing through us.”[1]

Read more

  1. [1]David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, “N.S.A. Breached Chinese Servers Seen as Security Threat,” New York Times, March 22, 2014,

In the land of the false analogy

Update, August 28, 2014: Those who have persisted in seeing the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the sole aggressor in Ukraine surely now have some explaining to do as it now appears that Russian troops have invaded. Russian President Vladimir Putin is “not even making a good-faith effort to come up with explanations that anyone in the United States or Europe could believe,” Stephen Long, an international security expert at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told McClatchy News. “No matter what Russia calls it, it’s been obvious for a long time that Russia is actively involved.”[1]

It seems like it’s all over but the shouting. Russia has completed its annexation of Crimea, with President Vladimir Putin claiming he has no interest in annexing the remaining southern and eastern portions of Ukraine,[2] a move Julia Ioffe of the New Republic has deployed maps to argue is inevitable, owing to the lack of any transportation and supply links to Crimea that do not run through the remaining portion of Ukraine.[3] Surrendering in all but name, Ukraine is withdrawing its military and Putin has ordered that a bridge be built between Crimea and Russia.[4] Read more

  1. [1]Stephen Long, quoted in Matthew Schofield, “Russia appears to invade Ukraine, opening 2nd front,” McClatchy, August 28, 2014,
  2. [2]Shaun Walker and Ian Traynor, “Putin confirms Crimea annexation as Ukraine soldier becomes first casualty,” Guardian, March 18, 2014,
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “The Maps That Show the Inevitability of a Russian Land-Grab in Eastern Ukraine,” New Republic, March 16, 2014,
  4. [4]David M. Herszenhorn and Andrew E. Kramer, “Ukraine Plans to Withdraw Troops From Russia-Occupied Crimea,” New York Times, March 19, 2014,

No longer an ecosystem with which to live in harmony

One of the themes I’ve been working on as I have gone through the coursework for my Ph.D. program is the issue of sustainability. I had, in fact, originally intended to get a certificate in Building a Sustainable World and a concentration in Social Transformation (these programs have developed and changed names and been re-shuffled since I started at Saybrook University; following the links will lead you to what I think are current incarnations) to go along with the Ph.D. in Human Science.

My argument has been that with the transformation from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, roughly 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, we as a species took a disastrous turn from living more or less in harmony with nature to an attitude of dominance, both among ourselves as a species, and with respect to animals and with nature, and I have repeatedly tackled the question of what to do about this, and how we should respond to the fact of this profoundly wrong turn.[1] This can be seen as the antithesis to my dissertation topic, which appears likely to analyze conservatism as a form of domination, and it is also where my heart lies. Even so, an xkcd comic (figure 1) is eye-opening.

Fig. 1. Land mammals on earth, by weight. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial license.
Fig. 1. Land mammals on earth, by weight. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial license.

I’m going to have to trust that Randall Munroe has done this right, that is, that he has correctly interpreted and rendered the information he presents here. This is, after all, a comic, not a scholarly article. But to the extent that he is correct, the notion of an earth ecosystem, at least on land, with which we live in harmony, rather than one which we dominate, seems to be a relic of an ancient imagination. Not shown here, are the corresponding—and one would assume even more extreme—weights in plant life,[2]comparing agriculture both for direct human consumption and for livestock consumption to wilderness and, perhaps generously, park land and various kinds of nature reserves.

Also missing here are the oceans.

All that said, Munroe’s image suggests the extent that we have remade and, really, cut ourselves off from a planetary ecosystem which brought us forth. In a sense, we have cut ourselves off from home, replacing it with a “new” home that seems increasingly inadequate.[3] The spiritual costs, too, of a wild nature annihilated, are incalculable.[4] This suggests that even as we have changed the ecosystem, we have also changed ourselves.

And it is hard to see how this has been for the better.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “We “need to know how it works”,” September 15, 2012,; David Benfell, “About borders,” September 2, 2012,; David Benfell, “Which Animals to Protect?” September 20, 2012,; David Benfell, “About racial profiling, economic globalization, and imperialism,” October 25, 2012,; David Benfell, “What is okay to kill to eat?” November 5, 2012,; David Benfell, “The dominator model of social organization,” November 7, 2012,; David Benfell, “The inevitability of speciesism,” December 7, 2012,; David Benfell, “‘We have found the enemy, and he is us’ — and our system of social organization,” March 6, 2013,; David Benfell, “Towards Sustainability,” April 11, 2013,; David Benfell, “Change For The Improbable: Change For Human and Non-Human Survival,” September 27, 2013,; David Benfell, “Humans Without Borders: A Paradox,” October 15, 2013,; David Benfell, “A Colonized Academy and a Colonized People,” November 22, 2013,; David Benfell, “Animal liberation: Not the revolution but a part of one,” November 28, 2013,; David Benfell, “Animal Liberation: A Way Forward,” November 30, 2013,
  2. [2] David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, “Sustainability of meat-based and Plant-Based Diets and the Environment,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78, no. 3 (2003),
  3. [3]David Benfell, “‘We have found the enemy, and he is us’ — and our system of social organization,” March 6, 2013,
  4. [4]David Abram, Becoming animal: An Earthly Cosmology (New York: Pantheon, 2010); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).