Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Just a thought!

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A novel Nursing Home plan.

Sent to me by dear friend, Dan Gomez, as a light-hearted diversion for the weekend. (But it did fit rather nicely as a sequel to my Lies, Damn Lies, and … from yesterday!)

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Say you are an older senior citizen and can no longer take care of yourself and the government says there is no Nursing Home care available for you. So, what do you do? You opt for Medicare Part G.

The plan gives anyone 75 or older a gun (Part G) and one bullet. You are allowed to shoot one worthless politician.

This means you will be sent to prison for the rest of your life where you will receive three meals a day, a roof over your head, central heating and air conditioning, cable TV, a library, and all the Health Care you need. Need new teeth? No problem. Need glasses? That’s great. Need a hearing aid, new hip, knees, kidney, lungs, sex change, or heart? They are all covered!

As an added bonus, your kids can come and visit you at least as often as they do now! And who will be paying for all of this? The same government that just told you they can’t afford for you to go into a nursing home. And you will get rid of a useless politician while you are at it. And now, because you are a prisoner, you don’t have to pay any more income taxes!

Is this a great country or what? Now that you have solved your senior financial plan, enjoy the rest of your week!

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I’ll leave the closing words to Dan: “Crazy world but compelling plan.​”

Have a great weekend wherever you are.

Written by Paul Handover

May 23, 2015 at 00:00

Lies, Damn lies, and ….

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What is so terrible about integrity!

I don’t know if my title to today’s post is part of a saying that is well-known in the USA. But back in dear old England the expression is widely used; the full expression being, “Lies, Damn Lies, and Politicians“.

So what’s got my ‘knickers in a twist’ about the various hues of ‘truth’ that we find amongst our politicians?

Before answering that question, perhaps I should answer a more fundamental question that might be arising in the minds of those followers who are relatively new to this place. (And each and every one of you has to understand the very great privilege you offer me by being a follower.) That question being what have integrity and politicians got to do with a blog about dogs?

Easily answered in the words over at About this Blog:

The underlying theme of Learning from Dogs is about truth, integrity, honesty and trust in every way. We use the life of dogs as a metaphor.

I subscribe to the blogsite The Conversation (US arm). Back on May 18th, they published an item under the title of How many ways can politicians ‘lie’?

The article seemed to articulate, in a measured and responsible fashion, what huge numbers of us sense subjectively: truth is rare to see in the world of power and politics.

I’m not going to republish it in full, including the tables, but will offer the first half with a link to the rest of the article. The author of the article is Dr. Ellis Jones, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.

How many ways can politicians ‘lie’? How a class led to a ‘truth’ report card for the 2016 election.

I regularly teach a course called The Sociology of Television & Media in which my students and I critically explore newscasts, entertainment programming and (both commercial and political) advertising. The theme that I use as a touchstone throughout the class is: What happens when, as a society, we begin to mix fantasy and reality together in mass media?

We discuss how a range of troubling outcomes emerge for a public that has difficulty telling truth from fiction. Max Horkheimer, a German-Jewish sociologist, argued that this is part of what led to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

Once we lose our ability to detect lies, we become vulnerable to demagogues.

Six categories of rhetoric

About halfway through the semester, I have students deconstruct political ads, and we discuss practical resources for navigating the web of truths, half-truths and outright lies that proliferate unhindered during each election cycle.

One resource that I offer is Politifact.org’s Truth-o-Meter. Students fact-check politicians’ statements to determine how much, if any, truth is contained therein (they actually won a Pulitzer Prize for their work fact-checking the 2008 election).

The first, and perhaps most important, takeaway from their work is that modern political statements cannot accurately be rated as simply “true” or “false.” So sophisticated has the art of mixing truth and lies become that the scale Politifact currently uses includes six separate categories of political rhetoric: true, mostly true, half true, mostly false, false and “pants on fire” (for statements that aren’t just false but also completely ludicrous – and yet still stated as truth).

In essence, while there is still but one way to tell the truth, there are now at least five times as many acceptable ways to lie.

For example, John Boehner’s May 3 2015 statement on Meet The Press that “we spend more money on antacids than we do on politics” is rated simply “false.” Fact-checking reveals that in the US, we spent somewhere between US$3 billion and US$7 billion on elections in 2014 (depending on what money streams you include), while we spent less than $2 billion on antacids in the same year.

Boehner’s team was apparently trying to compare global sales of antacids (including all seven billion people on the planet) to US spending on elections (about 320 million of us) – a false comparison.

On April 23 2015, Hillary Clinton provided a good illustration of a statement that rates as a “half truth.” When addressing the Women in the World Summit in New York City, Clinton asserted that the US ranks “65th out of 142 nations” when it comes to equal pay for women. The statistic comes from the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap Report.

However, the primary measure generated by this report ranks the US 20th in gender equity. The ranking of 65th is taken from a subcategory in the report that relies on a survey of perceptions of executives rather than hard numbers. So, while it is technically true, it may actually be overstating the severity of the gender pay gap comparison.

Whom can we trust?

The second takeaway, though it may not be much of a surprise, is that there are no politicians in this country that exclusively tell the truth. Every single one, to a greater or lesser extent, spins, bends, twists or breaks the truth.

Perhaps this is the price of power in our modern democracy, but we should find it at least a little troubling.

So where does this leave us? Well, knowing that every one of our politicians lies, the most important question, in my mind, becomes: Who is most often telling the truth and who is lying to us repeatedly in order to gain our support?

In other words, whom can and whom can’t we trust?

With this question in mind, I had my students add up the raw numbers for 25 major politicians (based on Politifact’s fact-checking over the past eight years) and write the results up on the board in rank order from most to least honest based on the data. The results were intriguing.

While the prototype point system was not particularly sophisticated (two points for each true statement, one point for each mostly true statement, zero for half-truths, etc.), the numbers revealed that many well-known politicians were abusing the truth far more than they were embracing it.

When I asked the class what they thought of the results, one student raised her hand and replied, “I’m not shocked.” Many of the others immediately nodded their heads in agreement.

I wondered if we’ve become so accustomed to the bending and breaking of the truth that we no longer expect truth from our leaders. Now we’re teaching the next generation not to expect it either.

After seeing these preliminary results, I was hooked.

Please do read the rest of this fascinating and hugely helpful report. It names names in terms of the ‘good, bad and ugly’!

However, the closing paragraphs of Dr. Jones’ article are so wonderful that I can’t resist republishing them!

As teachers, caught up in our own subject matter, we easily forget that our students are hungry to apply what they’re being taught in our classes to something meaningful in their own lives.

It is our obligation to offer each generation a sense of social responsibility, hope for the future and the practical tools that will allow them to build it for themselves.

Something like a yearly Honesty Report Card might serve us well at this point in our democracy’s evolution. At the very least, let’s use this idea as a starting point for some kind of political unity in this country.

Whether you are liberal or conservative, can’t we at least agree that our politicians should start telling us the truth?

At this point in preparing today’s post, I wanted, wanted so much, something to take me away into some dreamy corner of my mind. For just a few minutes to be distracted from the present day realities of life.

I chose to do it by listening to this track from Chris Rea.

Oh, nearly forgot to mention that dogs don’t lie!

We are what we eat!

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Some aspects of our food that many of us would rather not know about!

Many readers will be used to me republishing the essays from George Monbiot. Admittedly, not every single one of them but especially those that seem to have a message that deserves a wider promulgation. Having Mr. Monbiot’s permission to so do is generous of him.

Yesterday, there was an essay written by him that was published both on his blog and in the UK’s Guardian Newspaper. At first reading, it seemed to apply predominantly to the United Kingdom. Then, upon a second reading, I was convinced that this was yet another ‘message’ that quite happily fits in here, on Learning from Dogs. Because it is another reminder that integrity is missing from so many aspects of our societies.

You be the judge!

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Fowl Deeds

19th May 2015

The astonishing, multiple crises caused by chicken farming.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 20th May 2015

It’s the insouciance that baffles me. To participate in the killing of an animal: this is a significant decision. It spreads like a fungal mycelium into the heartwood of our lives. Yet many people eat meat sometimes two or three times a day, casually and hurriedly, often without even marking the fact.

I don’t mean to blame. Billions are spent, through advertising and marketing, to distract and mollify, to trivialise the weighty decisions we make, to ensure we don’t connect. Even as we search for meaning and purpose, we want to be told that our actions are inconsequential. We seek reassurance that we are significant, but that what we do is not.

It’s not blind spots we suffer from. We have vision spots, tiny illuminated patches of perception, around which everything else is blanked out. How often have I seen environmentalists gather to bemoan the state of the world, then repair to a restaurant in which they gorge on beef or salmon? The Guardian and Observer urge us to go green, then publish recipes for fish whose capture rips apart the life of the sea.

The television chefs who bravely sought to break this spell might have been talking to the furniture. Giant chicken factories are springing up throughout the west of England, the Welsh Marches and the lowlands of the east. I say factories for this is what they are: you would picture something quite different if I said farm; they are hellish places. You might retch if you entered one, yet you eat what they produce without thinking.

Two huge broiler units are now being planned to sit close to where the River Dore rises, at the head of the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, one of the most gorgeous landscapes in Britain. Each shed at Bage Court Farm – warehouses 90 metres long – is likely to house about 40,000 birds, that will be cleared out, killed and replaced every 40 days or so. It remains to be seen how high the standards of welfare, employment and environment will be.

The UK now has some 2,000 of these factories, to meet a demand for chicken that has doubled in 40 years [1]. Because everything is automated, they employ few people, and those in hideous jobs: picking up and binning the birds that drop dead every day, catching chickens for slaughter in a flurry of shit and feathers, then scraping out the warehouses before the next batch arrives.

The dust such operations raise is an exquisite compound of aerialised faeces, chicken dander, mites, bacteria, fungal spores, mycotoxins, endotoxins, veterinary medicines, pesticides, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide. It is listed as a substance hazardous to health, and helps explain why 15% of poultry workers suffer from chronic bronchitis. Yet, uniquely in Europe, the British government classifies unfiltered roof vents on poultry sheds as the “best available technology”. If this were any other industry, it would be obliged to build a factory chimney to disperse the dust and the stink. But farming, as ever, is protected by deference and vested interest, excused from the regulations, planning conditions and taxes other business must observe. Already, Herefordshire County Council has approved chicken factories close to schools, without surveying the likely extent of the dust plumes either before or after the business opens. Bage Court Farm is just upwind of the village of Dorstone.

Inside chicken factories are scenes of cruelty practised on such a scale that they almost lose their ability to shock. Bred to grow at phenomenal speeds, many birds collapse under their own weight, and lie in the ammoniacal litter, acquiring burns on their feet and legs and lesions on their breasts. After slaughter they are graded. Those classified as grade A can be sold whole. The others must have parts of the body removed, as they are disfigured by bruising, burning and necrosis. The remaining sections are cut up and sold as portions. Hungry yet?

Plagues spread fast through such factories, so broiler businesses often dose their birds with antibiotics. These require prescriptions but – amazingly – the government keeps no record of how many are issued. The profligate use of antibiotics on farms endangers human health, as it makes bacterial resistance more likely.

But Herefordshire, like other county councils in the region, scarcely seems to care. How many broiler units has it approved? Who knows? Searches by local people suggest 42 in the past 12 months. But in December the council claimed it has authorised 21 developments since 2000. [2] This week it told me it has granted permission to 31 since 2010. It admits that it “has not produced any specific strategy for managing broiler unit development” [3]. Nor has it assessed the cumulative impact of these factories. At Bage Court Farm, as elsewhere, it has decided that no environmental impact assessment is needed [4].

So how should chicken be produced? The obvious answer is free range, but this exchanges one set of problems for another. Chicken dung is rich in soluble reactive phosphate. Large outdoor flocks lay down a scorching carpet of droppings, from which phosphate can leach or flash into the nearest stream. Rivers like the Ithon, in Powys, are said to run white with chicken faeces after rainstorms. The River Wye, a special area of conservation, is blighted by algal blooms: manure stimulates the growth of green murks and green slimes that kill fish and insects when they rot. Nor does free range solve the feed problem: the birds are usually fed on soya, for which rainforests and cerrado on the other side of the world are wrecked.

There is no sensible way of producing the amount of chicken we eat. Reducing the impact means eating less meat – much less. I know that most people are not prepared to stop altogether, but is it too much to ask that we should eat meat as our grandparents did, as something rare and special, rather than as something we happen to be stuffing into our faces while reading our emails? To recognise that an animal has been sacrificed to serve our appetites, to observe the fact of its death, is this not the least we owe it?

Knowing what we do and what we induce others to do is a prerequisite for a life that is honest and meaningful. We owe something to ourselves as well: to overcome our disavowal, and connect.

http://www.monbiot.com

[1] Total purchases for household consumption (uncooked, pre-cooked and take-aways combined) rose from 126 grammes per person per week in 1974 to 259 grammes in 2013 (see the database marked UK – household purchases).

[2] BBC Hereford and Worcester, 15th December 2014

[3] Response to FoI request IAT 7856, 13th August 2014

[4] Herefordshire County Council, 22nd December 2014. Screening Determination of Bage Court Farm development, P143343/F

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Jean and I found a way to watch the BBC Panorama programme that was broadcast recently. It was screened under the title of Antibiotic Apocalypse. This is how the programme was introduced on the BBC website:

Panorama investigates the global advance of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and the threat they pose to modern medicine and millions of patients worldwide. Reporter Fergus Walsh travels to India and finds restricted, life-saving antibiotics on sale without prescription and talks to NHS patients whose recovery depends on them.

There is much in George Monbiot’s essay that resonates with the findings of that Panorama programme. Indeed, the Panorama programme showed the extent of the use of antibiotics in many animals over and beyond chickens.

It hardly needs to be said by me that the reason this is republished in a blog based in Southern Oregon, USA is because this is a problem that is not unique to the United Kingdom; far from it!

What a strange species we humans are!

OK, Time for Change!

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George Monbiot’s devastating analysis of British politics.

Note to readers:

When you start reading the following introduction, ahead of George Monbiot’s essay, you may be excused for thinking I have lost the plot!  However, trust me there is a purpose. For this blog is called Learning from Dogs.

Introduction

We know that the relationship between Planet Earth and man, as in H. sapiens, goes back around 200,000 years.

We also know, indicated by DNA evidence, that the dog separated from the grey wolf about 100,000 years ago.

The relationship between dogs and man goes back thousands of years as well; “The going theory is that dogs were domesticated somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago.“[1]

Certainly, the dog was the first animal to be domesticated by man. In fact, some archaeologists speculate that without the dog man could not have been such a successful ‘hunter-gatherer’ allowing, in time, man to evolve into farming; the real start of modern man.

But what of today?

There is little doubt that many people, even with the minimum of awareness about the world that we live in, are deeply worried. On so many fronts there are forbidding and scary views. It feels as though all the certainty of past times has gone; as if all the trusted models of society are now broken. Whether we are talking politics, economics, employment or the environment, nothing seems to be working.

Why is this? What’s the cause?

It would be easy to condemn man’s drive for progress and an insatiable self-centredness as root causes. But it’s not the case, certainly not the whole case.

The root cause is clear. It is this. How mankind has developed is the result of mankind’s behaviours. All of us behave in many ways that are hugely damaging to the survival of our species upon this planet. It is likely that these behaviours are little unchanged over thousands of years.

But 2,000 years ago, the global population of man was only 300 million. It took 1,200 years for that global population to become 1 billion; in 1800. Now track the intervals as we come forward in time.

In 1927, just 127 years later, the two-billionth baby was born. In 1960, only 33 years on, the three-billionth baby. Just 16 years on, in 1974, the four-billionth baby was born. In 1987, 13 years later, five billion. Around October 1999, the sixth-billionth baby was born! It’s trending to a billion every decade. In other words, a 100-million population growth every year, or about 270,000 more persons every single day!

Combine man’s historic behaviours with this growth of population and we have the present situation. A totally unsustainable situation disconnected from the finite planet that supports us.

The only viable solution is to amend our behaviours. To tap into the powers of integrity, self-awareness and mindfulness and change our game.

We all have to work with the fundamental, primary relationships we have with each other and with the planet upon which we all depend. We need a level of consciousness with each other and with the living, breathing planet that will empower change. We need spiritual enlightenment. And we need it now!

That is why we have so much to learn from dogs. They are man’s best friend. They are man’s oldest friend. They have a relationship with us that is very special; possibly verging on the telepathic.[2]

They can show us how we need to live our lives. Now!

[1] The Origin of Dogs, Scientific American, August 20th, 2009
[2] Refer Dr Rupert Sheldrake best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance

The George Monbiot essay.

(I hope as you read his essay, you can now understand the reasoning behind my introduction.)

Republished with the very kind permission of Mr. George Monbiot.

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Code of Silence

Almost all the issues worth debating are left unmentioned in this election.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 6th May 2015

Political coverage is never more trivial or evanescent than during an election. Where we might hope for enlightenment about the issues on which we will vote, we find gossip about the habits and style of political leaders, an obsession with statistically meaningless shifts in opinion polls and empty speculation about outcomes. (All this is now compounded by the birth of a royal baby, which means that our heads must simultaneously be dunked in a vat of sycophantic slobber). Anyone would think that the media didn’t want us to understand the choices confronting us.

While analysis of the issues dividing the political parties is often weak, coverage of those they have collectively overlooked is almost non-existent. The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the SNP might claim to be at each other’s throats, but they have often reached consensus about which issues are worthy of debate. This article will list a few of the omissions.

The first is so obvious that it should feature in every political discussion: the corrupt and broken system under which we will vote. The argument I’ve heard several Labour activists use – “vote for us because it’s the best we can hope for under first-past-the-post” – would carry more weight if Labour had any plans to change the system.

Where are the furious arguments about the UK’s unreformed political funding, that allows billionaires and corporations to buy the politics they want? Where is the debate about the use and abuse of royal prerogative by successive prime ministers? Where is there even a mention of the democratic black hole at the heart of Britain, into which hopes for financial and fiscal reform are sucked: the Corporation of the City of London, whose illegitimate powers pre-date the Magna Carta?

Here’s a fact with which politicans should be assailed every day: the poor in this country pay more tax than the rich. If you didn’t know this – and most people don’t* – it’s because you’ve been trained not to know it through relentless efforts by the corporate media. It distracts us by fixating on income tax, one of the few sources of revenue that’s unequivocally progressive. But this accounts for just 27% of total taxation. Overall, the richest tenth pay 35% of their income in tax, while the poorest tenth pay 43%, largely because of the regressive nature of VAT and council tax. The Equality Trust found that 96% of respondents to its survey would like a more progressive system. But where is the major party mobilising this desire, or even explaining the current injustice?

A comprehensive failure to tax land and property is a policy shared by the three major English parties, mansion tax notwithstanding. None of them seems to mind that this failure helps to replace the entrepreneurial society they claim to support with an economy based on rent and patrimonial capital. None of them seems to mind that their elaborate fiscal ringfencing of land and buildings clashes with their professed belief that capital should be used productively.

Nor will any of them mount an effective challenge to kleptoremuneration: executives siphoning off wealth they had no role in creating. None seek to modify a limited liability regime so generous that it allowed the multi-millionaire authors of the financial crisis, such as Fred Goodwin and Matt Ridley, to walk away from the pain they helped to inflict without forfeiting a penny.

Even these issues are trivial by comparison to the unacknowledged cloud that hangs over our politics: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet. All major parties and media outlets are committed to never-ending economic growth, and use GDP as the primary measure of human progress. Even to question this is to place yourself outside the frame of rational political debate.

To service this impossible dream, we must work relentlessly, often in jobs that deliver no social utility and cause great harm. Who in politics is brave enough to propose that we work less and enjoy life more? Who will challenge working conditions characterised by ridiculous quotas and impossible demands, or reform a social security regime more draconian and intrusive than day release from prison? Who is prepared to wonder aloud what all this striving and punishment is for?

And how about some acknowledgement of the epidemic of loneliness, or the shocking rise in conditions such as self-harm, eating disorders, depression, performance anxiety and social phobia? Evidently, these are not fit and proper subjects for political discourse, which creates the impression that those who suffer them are not fit and proper electors.

How about some arguments over the loss of public space? Or a debate about what’s happening to children, confined as never before within four walls, both at school and at home? How about some recognition of the radical changes in transport demand, that are likely, in the age of peak car and peak plane, to render redundant the new roads and airports to which all the large parties are committed? Forget it.

The national and global collapse of biodiversity, the horrifying rate of soil loss, the conflict between aspirations to minimise climate change and maximise the production of fossil fuels: none of these are put before voters as issues of significant difference. All major parties tacitly agree to carry on as before.

Politicians will not break these silences voluntarily. They are enforced by a narrow and retentive public discourse, dominated by the corporate media and the BBC, that ignores or stifles new ideas, grovels to the elite and ostracises the excluded, keeping this nation in a state of arrested development.

After this election, we need to think again; to find new means of pushing neglected issues onto the political agenda. We might try to discover why the social media have so far mostly failed to fulfill their democratising promise. We might seek new ways of building political communities, using models as diverse as Podemos and evangelical Christianity. We might experiment with some of the Latin American techniques that have helped to transform politics from the bottom up. However we do it, we should never again permit democracy to be reduced to so narrow a choice.

www.monbiot.com

* 68% of respondents to the Equality Trust’s Survey believed that households in the highest 10% income group pay more of their income in tax than households in the lowest 10% income group.

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(Readers in other countries will easily be able to identify their country’s version of the issues that Mr. Monbiot speaks about.)

Conclusion

Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, each and every one of us must start looking at ourselves in the mirror, every morning, and say, “What behaviour will I change today to save this planet for all future generations?

Writing 101 Day Seven

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Jaw, jaw is so much better than war, war!

Day Seven: Give and Take

Today’s Prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

Remember those “compare and contrast” essays in composition class, in which you’re forced to create a clunky juxtaposition of two arguments? Just because that particular form was a bore doesn’t mean that opposition has no place in your writing.

Bringing together two different things — from the abstract and the inanimate to the living and breathing — creates a natural source of tension, and conflict drives writing forward. It makes your reader want to continue to the next sentence, to the next page. So, focus on your two starkly different siblings, or your competing love for tacos and macarons, or whether thoughts are more powerful than words, or …… you get the idea.

Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!

If you’d like more guidance, check out these ten tips on writing solid dialogue. In case you’re intimidated by dialogue tags — all those “he said,” “she whispered,” etc., here’s a useful overview.

Emulating people’s speech in written form takes practice, and creating two distinct voices could help you see (and hear) the different factors that play into the way we speak, from our diction and accent to our vocabulary and (creative?) use of grammar. (We’ll discuss the topic of voice more formally later in the course; for now, take a stab at writing dialogue on your own.)

Today’s task makes writing about dogs look like a piece of cake!

I spent quite some time wondering how to approach this, what to draw upon in terms of my own experiences, what the scene might be. In the end, I chose to write a fictional exchange between me and the landlord, David, of my local pub back in the days of when I lived in Harberton, near Totnes in South Devon. (David and his wife are no longer in residence.)

To help set the scene for you, dear reader, here are two photographs. The first is a view of the pub in the centre of the village of Harberton; population 300 persons.

chi500

The second image is of the main bar area inside where this fictional conversation is about to take place.  The pub was less than a five-minute walk from my home.

church-house-inn

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“Evening David! Golly, looks like I’m first one in this evening. Must stop looking so keen to have a beer at the end of the day!”

Paul swung his backside onto the corner bar stool and lent his right arm on the bar.

“Good evening to you, Paul. Same as usual?”

“As ever, David.”

David reached out his right arm towards the pump handle at the same time as the fingers of his left hand closed around a pint glass. The sound of the mild ale being poured into the glass was a tonic in itself.

“So how’s your week been, Paul?”

“David, don’t even ask. I seem to have spent most of my waking hours wondering what the hell I’m going to do if the election goes the way it appears to be heading.”

“Well I’m sure Ralph will have clear ideas on that one when he comes in”, David remarked as he handed me the brimming glass of ale.

The pub door squeaked open in the same way it had for time immemorial.

David looked up. “Speak of the devil, here’s the man himself!”

“Somebody call my name?”, boomed out Ralph’s voice.

“David was just saying that you would have clear ideas on the election. But first let me get you a pint, Ralph.”

“Thank you, Paul, that’s mighty gentlemanly of you.”

Ralph removed his light raincoat and sat down next to Paul.

David passed across Ralph’s pint of bitter and took the ten-pound note that Paul held in an outstretched hand.

Ralph took a long swig of his beer and set the glass down on the counter. “So how do you think the election is going to turn out?”

Paul, too, took a good mouthful of his beer and looked across to Ralph. “Well if the media are reporting it correctly, it looks like there’s a better than even chance of UKIP holding the balance of power. And if that happens then I can kiss goodbye to my business!”

David held out Paul’s change in his hand.

“Oh come on, Paul, you can’t mean that! UKIP holding the balance of power will mean an end to the antics of the money-grabbing bastards who have got us into the present mess. Surely, that would be good for you!”

“Ralph, I really wish you are right. But seventy-five percent of my revenue comes from the EU countries and UKIP have pledged to hold a referendum on whether Great Britain stays or leaves the European Union.”

 “Well I don’t know! Me, I just want the quiet life with me and Betty enjoying the rest of our years free from all the damned interference from bloody bureaucratic arses both sides of the Channel!”

“Ralph, I can understand that, truly I can. But I’m a long way from retirement and if my business fails I’m screwed, screwed big time!”

“Paul, you worry too much – let me get you another pint!”

Paul chuckled, “Ralph, you know how to win me over don’t you!”

“Anyway, Paul”, Ralph continued, “rumour has it that you aren’t even spending Christmas with us in the village.”

David, putting the second two pints of beer on the counter in front of Ralph and Paul, looked up, “What’s this I hear? You deserting us this Christmas?”

“Sorry gents, but it’s looking that way. I’ve been invited to spend Christmas with a couple of Americans I’ve known for years.”

“Well it’s alright for some lucky sods,” boomed Ralph, “I’m lucky if I can afford a trip into Totnes.”

He sipped his second pint. “America! Bloody Yanks!”

“I said I have been invited to spend Christmas with some Americans. Doesn’t necessarily mean it will be in the USA.”

“Come on then, tell us it’s somewhere even fancier!”

“Ralph, I’ve been invited to go to Mexico!”

And so it came to pass!

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Well it was fun to write but I’m not certain that I got anywhere close to what today’s Writing 101 theme was looking for.

Oh well, another day tomorrow!

Written by Paul Handover

April 15, 2015 at 00:00

We are what we eat.

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Integrity and honesty should certainly apply to what we eat!

Published author Deborah Taylor-French has her own blog Dog Leader Mysteries. She and I follow each other’s blog and I’m very grateful for the connection, as indeed I am with so many other fellow bloggers.

Thus that was how I came to learn of a recent post from Deborah about how rabbit meat is being used for human consumption.  On the face of it, nothing wrong in eating rabbit but wait until you have read Deborah post, that is republished here with her kind permission.

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Tell Whole Foods: Do not sell bunnies

Tell Whole Foods, “Don’t sell bunny meat!”

Farm animals suffer greatly in the United States of America. Plus this suffering comes to us well documented. Before the U.S. Congress passes laws allowing Ag-Gag [see my footnote] states to make it illegal for people to photograph, video or report animal abuse inside or outside their meat plants.

The disturbing truth? Pet rabbits now sold for meat at Whole Foods Market come from being raised in U.S.A. Ag-gag states. What’s wrong with that? Everything.

Big farms doing business in Ag-gag states operate free from animal welfare laws.

In fact these huge meat farms have made laws against taking photographs, video recording or any reporting of animal abuse. What have they got to hide?

Enough. All too many cruel animal farming practices already hurt farm animals, enough to make most of us sick. The Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Defense Fund continue working to legally raise farm animal welfare practices. Most Americans know that farm animals do not receive acceptable room for walking nor a humane standard of care. Before we let another category of animal become victims of Ag-gag farm cruelty, we need to improve farm animals welfare.

Adopted from Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

Adopted from Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.

Rabbits die of fright.

They share the species lagomorph.

There are about eighty species of lagomorph include thirty species of pika, twenty species of rabbit and cottontail, and thirty species of hare family. Wikipedia

I learned about this issue of Whole Foods Market, selling a new category of animal for meat through a volunteer at my local shelter. Kathy, along with volunteers from Save a Bunny and a Southern California group, are working to raise awareness pet rabbits should not end up as mainstream Big Farm meat products. Why?

Whole Foods Market buys meat rabbits from Ag-gag states. If Whole Foods succeeds, farm animal suffering will fall on whole other category of animals, pet rabbits.

It comes as no secret in United States that farm animals end up being raised inhumanely. If you have ever read about the Ag-gag states and how they are able to prosecute anyone willing to go undercover and take photographs and videos to report the truth on this ongoing unnecessary torture of farm animals. What meat animals endure in the U.S.A. is nothing less than cruelty, it’s time we changed that, before adding anymore farm animals.

Nine facts hidden in Ag-gag pig farms

  1. Millions of meat pigs live, eliminate and sleep in cramped spaces.
  2. The environment these pigs endure smell rank. Their wastes drain into a central open sewer and their housing is so unclean many of them die.
  3. Meat pigs lack all exercise to the extreme point that their legs break.
  4. Pigs housed in huge warehouses with thousands of other pigs, hear others screaming day and night from pain.
  5. Female pigs, sows, live horrible lives in gestation crates.
  6. Gestation crates built for female pigs force them to stand up for 24-hours per day. Farmers do not allow pigs to walk or lie down. Gestation crates, notoriously painful for animals, need to be banned. Often the pigs’ legs break because their bones grow soft, due to not being allowed to walk.
  7. Big meat farms build bars underneath sows to brace broken legs.
  8. The meat pig lives in constant physical pain, terror, fear and unhappiness. When piglets die, often in these unsanitary conditions, their bodies get ground up and mixed into the food the sows eat. So mother pigs eat their own young.Pigs do not live as cannibals. Why should they be forced to eat their own young?
  9. What horrible animal welfare to make pigs eat their own young. It’s incomprehensible that animals must live like this so that people can eat pork barbecue, pork steak and pork ribs.

How can they call these farms? Not giving animals room to walk, sit or lie down? Meat farm animals get denied their normal and natural behaviors. They never see the light of the sun nor feel the earth nor wind.

What U.S.A. meat farms won’t let us see.

After four years of hesitation and never mentioning recordings of farm animals lack of good welfare, I break my silence.

Much of the time I avoid eating meat. From now on, I will be seeking out small sustainable and local farms. We have several nearby that do not inflict senseless cruelty on pigs, chickens and cows. After study of commercially farmed pork and chicken and beef, I have returned to my original vegetarian and fish eating ways.

My footnote. As a non-American I didn’t fully understand the phrase “Ag-gag”. Deborah kindly explained it as follows:

Several states have passed laws against anyone photographing, video recording or reporting on animal abuse inside massive meat farms. The Humane Society of the United States keeps working (under cover to film the truth of this unsanitary and cruel business) but now they can arrest anyone caught, send reporters to jail and sue anyone trying to inform the public.

ooOOoo

I know for a fact that Deborah would love that this item is shared and republished as far and wide as possible. Please help.

For spreading the word and being very careful about the meat that we eat are the only ways to put a stop to these unbelievably cruel practices, and the ‘Ag-gag’ laws.

And human madness!

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Reality will intrude whatever we believe.

Fitting in very neatly with yesterday’s post And human wisdom?, on Tuesday evening Jean and I sat down after dinner and watched a documentary film that was available on the website Top Documentary Films. It was called Our Rising Oceans and was introduced, thus:

In the opening moments of Our Rising Oceans we learn that global catastrophe lies beneath the awe-inspiring pale blue skies and ghostly white icescapes of West Antarctica. The scientific data regarding the effects of climate change on the ongoing process of glacial melting is overwhelming. Yet according to the many subjects featured in the film, a staggering percentage of the public remains doubtful, and our politicians and other policy influencers remain hesitant to act due to ill-informed skepticism and corporate interests.

In response to those naysayers, VICE founder and host Shane Smith ventures to the epicenter of the crisis to discover firsthand the science by which these changes are being observed, and the dire consequences of inaction.

Antarctica is starting to melt,” warns expert glaciologist Dr. Eric Rignot. Over the past twenty years, Dr. Rignot has analyzed reams of carefully procured data, and his discoveries indicate a rapidly deteriorating environment which could forever alter the fate of mankind. Here, in the midst of the Antarctic plains, wind is circulating at an unprecedented rate and pushing warm waters underneath the massive sheets of ice. This dynamic effectively melts these sheets from the bottom up, and has a profoundly distressing impact on rising sea levels.

Over the course of the film, Dr. Rignot is joined by a host of additional scientists who dedicate their lives to bearing witness to these calamitous changes, and pursuing solutions against the opposition of politicized stagnation. But even in the absence of this opposition, the disastrous effects of climate change may be too far gone to rectify. Dr. Rignot contends that even the strictest emission regulations cannot reverse the tides of a redefining global landscape. Others testify that additional environmental protection policies may slow the process, but will by no means guarantee the sustainability of future generations.

But even the slivers of hope which do exist seem impossible to realize given the gridlock of governmental leadership within the United States, as its representatives remain sharply divided on the mere existence of climate change. “I think it’s almost like denying gravity now,” says Vice President Joe Biden in an interview which closes the film. Our Rising Oceans paints a powerful portrait of a planet on the brink of ruin, and the political dysfunction which continues to push it over the edge.

Now in that opening paragraph I deliberately used the expression “was available” because when I came to check that the video, a YouTube video, was available, I received a “This video is private.” message.

So all I can do is to offer you the link to the Top Documentary Film page for Our Rising Oceans and hope that you are able to freely watch the full documentary. The link is here.

The documentary was scary and only confirmed the truth of what Jean and I instinctively felt – that unless those who lead and comprise all the governments of the free world react to the truth of where this planet is heading, and react soon, then the next great extinction is guaranteed. The first great extinction that is man-made!

If for whatever reason the video is unavailable to you then, at least, do watch the trailer.

For if we, as in humanity, turn a blind eye to this then reality will have a way of reminding us of what science already knows: significant sea-level rises are guaranteed.

Here’s a recent item from the Washington Post.

A hundred years from now, humans may remember 2014 as the year that we first learned that we may have irreversibly destabilized the great ice sheet of West Antarctica, and thus set in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise.

Meanwhile, 2015 could be the year of the double whammy — when we learned the same about one gigantic glacier of East Antarctica, which could set in motion roughly the same amount all over again. Northern Hemisphere residents and Americans in particular should take note — when the bottom of the world loses vast amounts of ice, those of us living closer to its top get more sea level rise than the rest of the planet, thanks to the law of gravity.

The findings about East Antarctica emerge from a new paper just out in Nature Geoscience by an international team of scientists representing the United States, Britain, France and Australia. They flew a number of research flights over the Totten Glacier of East Antarctica — the fastest-thinning sector of the world’s largest ice sheet — and took a variety of measurements to try to figure out the reasons behind its retreat. And the news wasn’t good: It appears that Totten, too, is losing ice because warm ocean water is getting underneath it.

Read the full piece here.

Welcome to the new world!

Storm surge on a Louisiana highway shows the affects of rising sea levels. (Credit: NOAA)

Storm surge on a Louisiana highway shows the affects of rising sea levels. (Credit: NOAA)

Once again, I’m going to be predictable in saying that our dogs wouldn’t be as half as mad as to deny the truth of what man is doing to our planet!

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