A critical Thanksgiving

Figure 1. Cover photo for event scheduled on Facebook. Institute for Critical Animal Studies via Facebook, fair use.
Figure 1. Cover photo for event scheduled on Facebook.

Update, November 22, 2014: I have updated this post here.

The point (fig. 1) is, of course, well taken. Historically, Thanksgiving is about genocide. As the Native American Encyclopedia gently—perhaps too gently—puts it,

To the Indians, Thanksgiving would mean a totally different thing. This was the beginning of their end – a time where they had given up their land in return for gifts that were full of disease – which would kill many of them later down the road.[1]

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  1. [1]Native American Encyclopedia, “Thanksgiving,” August 30, 2011, http://nativeamericanencyclopedia.com/thanksgiving/

Move along now: Nothing to see in Obama-Netanyahu spat

If there was any remaining doubt that Barack Obama is now a lame-duck president, it may now be put to rest. As have a few former presidents, Obama has realized that he does not have a negotiating partner in Israel for peace with the Palestinians. Such recognitions always come late in presidential administrations—and never at all in the halls of Congress, which not being subject to term limits, should possess an institutional memory that a presidential administration lacks. As the New York Times put it,

Analysts contrasted this with, among other nadirs, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s threat to sanction Israel over its conquest of the Sinai Peninsula in 1956; President Ronald Reagan’s delay of the delivery of fighter jets in response to Israel’s bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor; and the first President George Bush’s denial of $10 billion in loan guarantees to protest Israel’s settlement policies in Palestinian territory.[1]

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  1. [1]Jodi Rudoren, “Israel Jabs Back After U.S. Official Calls Netanyahu a Coward,” New York Times, October 29, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/30/world/middleeast/israel-snipes-back-after-us-official-calls-netanyahu-a-coward.html

Assholes who vote

I’m no David Brooks fan. Usually, if I see his column, I just pass it over. If I somehow get hooked into reading it, I usually give up in disgust after a few paragraphs, muttering to myself about what a clueless idiot he is.

But things have gone so far awry now that even clueless idiots are seeing it. Brooks points to a number of ideas for increasing employment that he says broad majorities in the U.S. support: “The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs.” Some traces of clueless idiocy remain: “First,” he writes, “the government should reduce its generosity to people who are not working but increase its support for people who are.”[1] This sounds like kicking people even harder when they’re already down, something our society already does abundantly.[2] “Third, the immigration system should turn into a talent recruiting system, a relentless effort to get the world’s most gifted and driven people to move to our shores.”[3] As if there weren’t plenty of talented people looking for work in this country already.[4] But he also offers some tolerable ideas: Read more

  1. [1]David Brooks, “The Working Nation,” New York Times, October 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/opinion/david-brooks-the-working-nation.html
  2. [2]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995); Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  3. [3]David Brooks, “The Working Nation,” New York Times, October 23, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/opinion/david-brooks-the-working-nation.html
  4. [4]Tom Hamburger, Carol D. Leonnig and Zachary A. Goldfarb, “Obama’s record on outsourcing draws criticism from the left,” Washington Post, July 9, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obamas-record-on-outsourcing-draws-criticism-from-the-left/2012/07/09/gJQAljJCZW_story.html; Karin Klein, “The truth about the great American science shortfall,” Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2014, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-stem-science-math-shortage-20140224,0,6706502.story; Carlton Meyer, “America’s 20 Percent Unemployment Rate,” Truthout, April 10, 2009, http://www.truth-out.org/archive/item/83499:americas-20-percent-unemployment-rate; Robert Oak [pseud.], “ObamaCare gets outsourced amid unemployment crisis,” New York Post, January 18, 2014, http://nypost.com/2014/01/18/obamacare-gets-outsourced-amid-unemployment-crisis/; Anna M. Tinsley, “Texas engineer, whose wife sent Obama his résumé, still unemployed,” McClatchy, April 9, 2012, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/04/09/144558/texas-engineer-who-sent-obama.html

“Are we no longer a country governed by the rule of law?”

I think it’s time to ask: Where are we, as a society? Are we no longer a country governed by the rule of law, where no one is above or beyond that law? Are we so mistrustful of government—and of law enforcement—that we are willing to let bad guys walk away…willing to leave victims in search of justice?[1]

It was my last semester teaching public speaking at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward. I was about to graduate with my Master’s degree in speech communication and in doing so, lose that job. Barack Obama, not yet inaugurated as president of the United States, referring to multiple Bush administration adventures of doubtful legality, including torture and the war in Iraq, expressed “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”[2] Read more

  1. [1]James B. Comey, “Going Dark: Are Technology, Privacy, and Public Safety on a Collision Course?” Federal Bureau of Investigation, October 16, 2014, http://www.fbi.gov/news/speeches/going-dark-are-technology-privacy-and-public-safety-on-a-collision-course
  2. [2]David Johnston and Charlie Savage, “Obama signals his reluctance to investigate Bush programs,” New York Times, January 2, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/americas/12iht-12inquire.19265701.html

Answering Brad Friedman: Why the discrepancy in police response to Ferguson versus Cliven Bundy?

Government officials promised accountability for those who broke the law by taking up arms against federal agents. It seems unfathomable, in fact, that the U.S. Department of Justice would allow a mob of antigovernment zealots to get away with using the threat of violence to block the enforcement of the law.

But, as the months have dragged on, there has been no response. Not an arrest. Not an indictment. Nothing.[1]

I’ve already remarked on the stark contrast between the federal government’s response to Cliven Bundy and to the Occupy movement,[2] and to the uprising in Ferguson,[3] and, one might add, to any of a number of other mostly leftist protests that have arisen since the Seattle World Trade Organization protest.[4] It’s not a question that’s attracted a lot of attention,[5] but it’s time to consider the possible explanations for this discrepancy. Read more

  1. [1]Ryan Lenz, “The federal government lost its war against Cliven Bundy,” Salon, October 19, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/10/19/the_federal_government_lost_its_war_against_cliven_bundy_partner/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “The Quixotic Quest to Comprehend Conservatism, Part 2,” May 29, 2014, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2014/05/29/the-quixotic-quest-to-comprehend-conservatism-part-2/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “It’s so much easier to wave a Confederate flag,” Not Housebroken, August 15, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=6588
  4. [4]Democracy Now! “Report Finds Police Worldwide Criminalize Dissent, Assert New Powers in Crackdown on Protests,” October 10, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/10/report_finds_police_worldwide_criminalize_dissent
  5. [5]but see Brad Friedman, “Cliven Bundy vs. Ferguson’s peaceful demonstrators: A tale of two protests,” Salon, August 18, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/08/18/cliven_bundy_vs_fergusons_peaceful_demonstrators_a_tale_of_two_protests/

An intolerable tolerance

Any notion that liberation from mindlessness simply requires information suggests a shallow comprehension of a very complex problem. The nature of being within a system of meaning precludes certain approaches or resistance. Those living within a system of mindlessness (obedience to authority, the Third Reich, nationalism, etc.) have a very difficult time understanding the nature of the problem because from their perspective, the injustice is a necessary part of their existence. Oppression is not only acceptable, but often it is made to be a fundamental part of how we come to know the world.[1]

Maxwell Schnurer does not write to justify the seeming inability of our society or its members to respond to a dire need to change. His essay, rather, appears in an anthology advocating animal liberation, which from a scholarly perspective, shares vegetarian ecofeminist ideas, but puts them into practice.[2]

The challenge Schnurer is dealing with includes system justification, in which the oppressed rationalize the system that oppresses them. The other aspect, the one Schnurer focuses on, is our participation in a system which is oppressive to animals and the environment.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Maxwell Schnurer, “At the Gates of Hell: The ALF and the Legacy of Holocaust Resistance,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. (New York: Lantern, 2004), 108.
  2. [2]Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella, II, eds. Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (New York: Lantern, 2004).
  3. [3]Maxwell Schnurer, “At the Gates of Hell: The ALF and the Legacy of Holocaust Resistance,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. (New York: Lantern, 2004), 108.

Yes, ‘vegan’ is a useful word. Here’s why I might stop identifying as such.

Update, October 19, 2014: I have now left the vegan singles group mentioned in this post. The conversation associated with the image used as an example below continued to display misogyny. Even as jokes, some remarks, such as a moderator’s suggestion that a man “put a bag over her head” while she’s giving him the “bomb head” are unacceptable. I have also left another vegan singles group where the image went entirely unchallenged.

There have been a few illuminating developments recently on a Facebook vegan singles group that I’ve previously mentioned. First, a number of people, of both sexes, joined the group and began exchanging photos that emphasized physical attributes but carried little additional information. Pressed on this point, one replied that he valued women who “take care of themselves.”

The group’s moderator agreed to something called ‘Sexy Saturday,’ and decreed that all such posts should be confined to that thread, which would exist for a limited time only on Saturdays. Read more

Hype, boom, and bust

It was in the year 2000 and I had the best, and the best-paying, job I’ve ever had for any length of time, a job that had lifted me out of the San Francisco taxi business. I’d been there a few months, long enough to start taking my new standard of living for granted, when, one day, I was looking at my boss, one of a few I had at Linuxcare. His background was not in technology, but rather in business. I don’t remember his name and I don’t remember what extravagance was playing out before us, but I asked him, “This doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?” Read more

Passivity in the face of calamity

As a species, we are probably doomed, possibly to be extinct within 100 years.[1] This is not much consolation for the planet, as we are taking so many other species with us, having plowed into the earth’s sixth major extinction event.[2] This is the result of a system of social organization that with the exception of some indigenous peoples still on the fringes of society, most of us have either adopted or had forced upon us beginning with the Neolithic, an authoritarian system of social organization that can only maintain itself through expansion, requiring ever more resources on a finite planet.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Lin Edwards, “Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist,” Phys.org, June 23, 2010, http://phys.org/news196489543.html; Cheryl Jones, “Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans,” Australian, June 16, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722
  2. [2]Dahr Jamail, “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice? Scientists Consider Extinction,” TomDispatch, December 17, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175785/tomgram%3A_dahr_jamail%2C_the_climate_change_scorecard/; Igor Matutinovié, “An Institutional Approach to Sustainability: Historical Interplay of Worldviews, Institutions and Technology,” Journal of Economic Issues 41, no. 4 (December 2007): 1109-1137; Carl N. McDaniel and David N. Borton, “Increased Human Energy Use Causes Biological Diversity Loss and Undermines Prospects for Sustainability,” BioScience 52, no. 10 (2002): 929-936, doi: 10.1641/0006-3568(2002)052[0929:IHEUCB]2.0.CO;2
  3. [3]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008).

How empowering, indeed

Update, October 12, 2014: This post should perhaps be read in the context of an essay I submitted for a sustainability class I took for the coursework in my Ph.D. program. Of my work in that class, Marc Pilisuk, the professor, wrote (on May 1, 2013), “David’s understanding of sustainability issues is deep and his work on the issues is highly creative. In this course he grasped the material and then went on to analysis of the modes of thought that resist sustainability, the limits of individual efforts and plans for research that may assist broader change.”

Fig. 1. An example image. Carol Rossetti, via Laura Lokkie/Bored Panda, fair use.
Fig. 1. An example image. Carol Rossetti, via Laura Lokkie/Bored Panda, fair use.
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