In the vast majority of countries our pet animals have few, in any, legal rights.
Thus it was a wonderful reminder of another example of how the Swiss government sets the lead in so many ways to read on the Care 2 site how that country looks after their animals. Laura Burge offers the details in this republication of an essay on Care 2.
10 Reasons Switzerland Is a Great Place to Be a Pet
Switzerland is a fairly small country, but it stills boasts an estimated seven million pets living there, not including the farm animals that dot the countryside. Although far from perfect, it has a long history of improving the working and living conditions for animals within the country, including landmark legislation in 1992 when it became the first country to include animal rights in their constitution. Specifically, it included a provision that allowed for the protection of animal dignity.
Then, in 2008, Switzerland introduced a bevy of new animal rights regulations that went even further. With that in mind, here are some of the more interesting laws that Switzerland has put in place to improve the lives of animals in their midst.
1. Guinea pigs must live with or have regular playdates with other members of their species. They can get lonely if they don’t have a companion. Since guinea pigs often don’t live the exact same amount of time, matchmaking services have sprouted up in the country to make sure they are not alone.
2. The Swiss have your cat’s social life in mind, too — if a cat doesn’t have a feline companion at home, he or she must be able to go outside to socialize with others, or at the very least, be able to see other cats from home.
3. Surprisingly, goldfish must also have friends to swim around with. The Swiss believe it is cruel to have them live alone in a small fish bowl, as they are actually social animals.
4. Rabbits’ enclosures must have a dark area that they can retreat to, if they feel the need. Rabbits are very particular about their space, and having a dark area of their enclosure helps ensure that bunnies are happy and less stressed.
5. Fish must live in aquariums that experience natural day and night cycles, and have at least one opaque side.
6. Before bringing a dog into a new home, a person must provide a certificate of competence demonstrating that they know how to deal with and treat dogs. If they can prove that they’ve already had a dog, though, they’re off the hook.
7. Dogs have to be exercised daily, according to what they need, and, as much as possible, off leash. Everyone knows that different dogs have different levels of energy, so whether someone has a lazy Great Dane who just wants to walk around the block, or a bouncing terrier who needs to run, the law accounts for it.
8. Dogs that are tied up must be able to run around freely for at least five hours a day, and the rest of the time, must be able to move around in at least 20 square meters of space. While this may not seem ideal, since dogs are still allowed to be tied up, it means that there’s a national law on the side of the pet if the owner is using a choke chain or the dog is not getting time to run around freely.
9. Parrots, also considered social creatures, are required to have a companion to spend their days with. The legislation can be eye-opening in how many creatures need others of their own kind to have a relaxed and happy life as a companion to people.
10. Clipping the ears or tails of dogs is not allowed. It is considered undue pain and damage, and dogs get to live out their days with their natural floppy ears and wagging tails.
While Switzerland, like most other countries, are far from achieving perfect animal welfare laws and enforcement, they have made some good progress that other countries would do well to keep an eye on.
Photo credit: Laura Burge, author
Did you spot that four out of those ten laws that were described in the article were for the well-being of dogs!
And even better than that is a State in the USA that also comes to the rescue, legally, of abused animals. Tune in tomorrow for the full story.
I am referring to the result of the British election that was held last Thursday.
Now I am well aware that many readers will not have the same relationship with the outcomes of British elections as your faithful scribe. But I am also aware that we live in a very connected world. I am also acutely aware that for many, many years I was a devoted listener to the 15-minute weekly radio broadcast on the BBC by Alistair Cooke Letter from America.
So for me, and many others I don’t doubt, the views of America as to what goes on across the pond are just as fascinating today as they have always been.
How populism explains May’s stunning UK election upset: Experts react
June 9, 2017 6.04am EDT
Editor’s note: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s election gamble failed badly as her Conservatives lost 12 seats, leaving them with 318, shy of a majority. It was a stunning loss for a party earlier projected to gain dozens of seats. Without a majority, the Conservatives will have to rely on another party to govern – known as a hung Parliament. If they’re unable to forge a coalition, rival Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – whose party gained 31 seats – would be able to give it a go. We asked two experts to offer their insights on what Americans should make of the election and its results.
The results of this election show how similar, and yet how different, British politics are from what is happening in America.
As in the United States, there has been an explosion of populism in Britain, most recently evidenced by the Brexit referendum. This new political force is translating into less liberal policies from the major parties.
In continental Europe, the new populism is mostly embodied by the resurgent far right. But in Britain, as in America, it is being filtered through the existing two-party system – though the U.K.‘s smaller parties do complicate the electoral map.
To accommodate the political winds, May and her Conservatives decided to shift their electoral strategy away from Margaret Thatcher’s pro-market economic approach toward a greater focus on immigration, security and economic nationalism.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, deserted the more centrist “New Labour” ideas of Tony Blair in favor of a more robust form of social democracy.
The American left, like its British counterpart, has also become increasingly skeptical of unbridled markets. But among Republicans, a traditional hostility to “big government” makes pro-worker redistributive policies, some of which the Tories have adopted to win votes, hard to stomach. For this reason, populism on the American right has mostly taken the form of protectionist and anti-immigrant policies, as embodied by Donald Trump.
Yesterday’s results were devastating for May and indicate that the Conservatives were ultimately unable to balance their new populist message with their traditional support for neo-liberal policies.
Corbyn, for his part, will use this unexpected victory (of sorts) to solidify his hold over the Labour Party and to move it further to the left.
It remains to be seen whether the election will result in a minority or a coalition government, or whether the parties will be well and truly deadlocked. Whatever happens, the British electorate, like its cousin across the pond, has shown itself to be highly polarized.
Still, at a minimum, Britain’s parliamentary structure, along with the ability of the Labour leadership to co-opt disillusioned voters, seems to have spared Britain the fate of America – the takeover of government by a populist insurgent.
May took a calculated political risk and lost. While the market reaction has been severe, with the pound plunging, it’s nothing new to companies, which take calculated risks like that every day – some pay off and some do not.
So first of all, U.S. corporate executives will need to take a deep breath. Assuming a combination of other parties do not cobble together at least 322 seats – despite winning seven seats, Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein will not send MPs to London – the Conservatives will dominate a coalition government and have considerable sway over policy.
This means a “hard Brexit,” as outlined by May in January, and as seen in the European Union’s tough negotiating guidelines, is unlikely to change. But this is what most U.S. companies have been planning for anyway since last June’s Brexit vote. Many companies, particularly banks and financial institutions, are already planning to move some of their U.K. operations to other EU countries to take advantage of the single market rules.
This process will continue no matter who’s in power, since only the low-polling Liberal Democrat and Green parties promised a Brexit revote.
Second, a weakened Conservative Party will need more foreign friends, and that includes U.S. companies. Since Brexit, some foreign businesses have threatened to downsize or close their U.K. operations as leverage for obtaining government subsidies. Expect more companies to use this strategy with a weaker U.K. government.
As I argue in my recent book, the business environment of Europe is much more than the U.K. market, and U.S. companies have become increasingly aware of this since Brexit.
In other words, it’s business as usual, and that means the continued segmenting of companies’ U.K. and EU strategies, regardless of who is governing in London.
Expect things to continue to be interesting for some time. Or as more eloquently put by Tariq Ramadan “Times have changed; so must the lenses through which we see the political future.”
Back to Alistair Cooke. There are many of his broadcasts available on the BBC Radio website and on YouTube.
I’m closing with just a small part of Charlie Rose interviewing Alistair Cooke in May, 1996.
Uploaded on Sep 25, 2011
Tuesday, May 7, 1996
Charlie Rose: An interview with Alistair Cooke
Alistair Cooke celebrates the 50 year anniversary of his BBC broadcast, “Letter from America”, a 15-minute talk about life in America for British listeners.
Recorded some twenty-one years ago. Somethings don’t seem to change!
Why can’t we leave nature to do what’s best for our world!
Now, I would be the first to ‘tut-tut’ a little over my sub-heading. For here I am sitting in front of a computer in a room in a reasonably-sized home that undoubtedly has denuded the natural world formerly underneath the present foundations.
Plus, as the property boundary shown on the above picture confirms, about 50% of our acreage is no longer wilderness.
Ergo, it is impossible for humans to live on this planet without there being consequences that conflict with the natural order of the wild.
But homes to live in are one thing. A planned madness for the Lake District in Northern England is another thing altogether.
The attempt to turn the Lake District into a World Heritage site would be a disaster
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 9th May 2017
If this bid for power succeeds, the consequences for Britain will be irreversible. It will privilege special interests over the public good, shut out the voices of opposition and damage the fabric of the nation, perhaps indefinitely. No, I’m not writing about the election.
In the next few weeks Unesco, the UN’s cultural organisation, will decide whether or not to grant World Heritage status to the Lake District. Once the decision is made, it is effectively irreversible.
Shouldn’t we be proud that this grand scenery, that plays such a prominent role in our perceptions of nationhood, will achieve official global recognition? On the contrary, we should raise our voices against it. World Heritage status would lock the Lake District into its current, shocking state, ensuring that recovery becomes almost impossible.
Stand back from the fells and valleys and try to judge this vista as you would a landscape in any other part of the world. What you will see is the great damage farming has inflicted: wet deserts grazed down to turf and rock; erosion gullies from which piles of stones spill; woods in which no new trees have grown for 80 years, as every seedling has been nibbled out by sheep; dredged and canalised rivers, empty of wildlife and dangerous to the people living downstream; tracts of bare mountainside on which every spring is a silent one. Anyone with ecological knowledge should recoil from this scene.
The documents supporting the bid for world heritage status are lavishly illustrated with photos, that inadvertently reveal what has happened to the national park. But this slow-burning disaster goes almost unmentioned in the text. On the contrary, the bid repeatedly claims that the park is in “good physical condition”, and that the relationship between grazing and wildlife is “harmonious”. Only on page 535, buried in a table, is the reality acknowledged: 75% of the sites that are meant to be protected for nature are in “unfavourable condition”.
This great national property has degenerated into a sheepwrecked wasteland. And the national park partnership, that submitted the bid, wants to keep it this way: this is the explicit purpose of its attempt to achieve world heritage status. It wants to preserve the Lake District as a “cultural landscape”. But whose culture? Whose landscape? There are only 1080 remaining farms in the district. Should the entire national park be managed for their benefit? If so, why? The question isn’t raised, let alone answered.
I can see the value and beauty of the traditional shepherding culture in the Lake District. I can also see that the farming there, reliant on subsidies, quad bikes and steel barns, now bears little relationship to traditional practice. As the size of landholdings has increased, it looks ever more like ranching and ever less like the old system the bid describes. The bid’s claim that farming there is “wholly authentic in terms of … its traditions, techniques and management systems” is neither intelligible nor true. Remnants of the old shepherding culture tend to be represented ceremonially, as its customs are mostly disconnected from the farm economy.
Shepherding is not the only cultural legacy in play. The other is that the Lake District is the birthplace of the modern conservation movement. Inspired by the Picturesque and Romantic movements, much of our environmental ethic and the groups representing it, such as the National Trust, originated here. Attempts to preserve natural beauty in the district began in the mid-18th century, with complaints against the felling of trees around Derwent Water. Today, the national park cares so little for this legacy that, as the bid admits, “there are no data available” on the condition of the Lake District’s woodlands.
The small group favoured by this bid sees environmental protection as anathema. Farmers’ organisations in the Lake District have fought tooth and nail against conservation measures. They revile the National Trust and the RSPB, whose mild efforts to protect the land from overgrazing are, with the help of a lazy and compliant media, treated like bubonic plague. As one of these farming groups exults, world heritage status “gives us a powerful weapon” that they can wield against those who seek to limit their impacts. If the plan is approved, this world heritage site would be a 230,000-hectare monument to overgrazing and ecological destruction.
This is not the only sense in which the bid is unsustainable. Nowhere in its 700 pages is Brexit mentioned. It was obviously written before the referendum, and has not been updated. Yet the entire vision relies, as the bid admits, on the economic viability of the farming system, which depends in turn on subsidies from the European Union.
Without these payments, there would be no sheep farming in the Lake District: it operates at a major loss. European subsidies counteract this loss, delivering an average net farm income of £9,600. Unsurprisingly, people are leaving the industry in droves: the number of farms in the national park is declining by 2% a year. And this is before the payments cease.
What is the national park partnership, that prepared this bid, going to do – march people onto the fells at gunpoint and demand they continue farming? Or does it hope that the government, amid the massacre of public investment that will follow Brexit, will not only match but exceed the £3bn of public money currently being passed to UK farmers by the European Union? Your guess is as good as mine. This omission alone should disqualify the bid.
The failure to mention this fatal issue looks to me like one of many attempts to pull the Herdwick wool over Unesco’s eyes. The entire bid is based on a fairy tale, a pretence that the rural economy of the Lake District hasn’t changed for 200 years. If Unesco grants world heritage status on these grounds, it will inflict irreparable harm on both our natural heritage and its own good standing.
The hills, whose clothes so many profess to admire, are naked. The narrative we are being asked to support is false. The attempt to ensure that the ecological disaster zone we call the Lake District National Park can never recover from its sheepwrecking is one long exercise in woolly thinking.
When one reads this one is left with a feeling of great sadness. A sadness that our ‘movers and shakers’ can’t resist the urge to meddle. Can’t understand the beauty that is found in nature in the raw.
Earlier on I illustrated how our own property has ‘interfered’ with the wilderness of this most beautiful Oregonian countryside. But as I hope to show you with the following photographs taken on our property back in 2014 that wild beauty can be hung on to in some measure.
I have sent a message to Unesco asking if the views of the public are being taken into account and, if so, how those views are to be communicated to Unesco. If you wish to contact them then the details are on this page: http://whc.unesco.org/en/world-heritage-centre/
Any replies from Unesco will be posted here.
UPDATE 0815 PDT May 22nd.
My email yesterday to Unesco was ‘bounced back’ as an invalid email address (despite me using the email address on the Unesco website!!).
But following George Monbiot’s reply to me, giving me the name of James Bridge (firstname.lastname@example.org) at Unesco, I have now sent Mr. Bridge the following email:
Dear Mr. Bridge,
I write as a British citizen, born a Londoner in 1944, to protest in the strongest possible terms to the proposal to turn the English Lake District into a World Heritage Site. This is your Tentative List reference http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5673/.
Would you please provide me with the details of where or whom within Unesco I can write setting out in detail my objections to this proposal?
Your soonest reply would be very much appreciated.
I won’t hold my breath over getting a quick reply.
It is very hard to avoid hyperbole when one speaks of global warming.
I am indebted to The Nation magazine, May 8/15 Issue, in which is included a feature article authored by Bill McKibben. My sub-heading is much of what Bill wrote in his first line.
It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin.
A few sentences later, Bill offers this:
In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day.
Yet what scares me, scares me beyond comprehension, is the almost universal disregard being shown by Governments and those with power and influence right across the world to what in anyone’s language is the most pressing catastrophe heading down the tracks. Not next year; not tomorrow, but now!
Or in Mr. McKibben’s words, once more from that Nation article:
But as scientists have finally begun to realize, there’s nothing rational about the world we currently inhabit. We’re not having an argument about climate change, to be swayed by more studies and journal articles and symposia. That argument is long since won, but the fight is mostly lost—the fight about the money and power that’s kept us from taking action and that is now being used to shut down large parts of the scientific enterprise. As Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney said in March, “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.” In a case this extreme, scientists have little choice but to be citizens as well. And given their credibility, it will matter: 76 percent of Americans trust scientists to act in the public interest, compared with 27 percent who think the same thing about elected officials.
Whatever your response is to what I have already presented, the one thing that I do know is that you have been aware of humanity’s effect on our atmosphere for many, many years. Indeed, Bill McKibben wrote his first book twenty-eight years ago!
His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books.
But I would be the first to acknowledge that back in 1989 while I did become aware of Bill McKibben and did purchase and read that book of his, I didn’t see the effects he prophesied. In addition, I didn’t understand the mechanisms that would bring those effects into place.
Now, today, it’s very difficult to deny that global weather systems are behaving in ways that most do not understand albeit we do understand how those weather changes are affecting our lives.
One person who did, and still does even more, understand the physics involved in our changing weather, is Patrice Ayme. For some nineteen years after Bill McKibben’s first book, Patrice published a post on his blog. I have been following Patrice’s blog for some years and while I would be the first to stick my hand in the air and declare that some of his posts are a little beyond me, there’s no question of the integrity of his writings and his bravery in spelling out the truth of these present times. (OK, the truth a la Monsieur Aymes but I would place a decent bet of PA being closer to the core truth of many issues than Joe Public.)
I am indebted to Patrice for granting me permission to republish that post. Please read it. Don’t be put off by terms that may not be familiar to you. Read it to the end – the message is very clear.
Applying Equipartition Of Energy To Climate Change PREDICTS WILD WEATHER.
By Patrice Ayme, March 8th, 2008.
Lately, the world weather has been especially perplexing, influenced by the cold ocean temperatures of a La Niña current in the equatorial Pacific. For Earth’s land areas, 2007 was the warmest year on record.
This year, record cold is more the norm. Global land-surface temperatures so far are below the 20th-century mean for the first time since 1982, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Last month in China, snowstorms stranded millions of people, while in Mumbai, officials reported the coldest day in 46 years.
Yet, England basked in its fourth-warmest January since 1914, the British Met Office reported. The crocus and narcissus at the U.K.’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew flowered a week earlier than last year — 11 days ahead of their average for the decade and weeks ahead of their pattern in the 1980s. In Prague, New Year’s Day was the warmest since 1775.
“It is difficult to judge the significance of what we are seeing this year,” said Kew researcher Sandra Bell. “Is it a glitch or is it the beginning of something more sinister and alarming?”” (Robert Lee Hotz, Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2008).
Many scientists have pondered this question, as if they did not know the answer, but it is a straightforward application of thermodynamics.
A basic theorem of equilibrium thermodynamics, the EQUIPARTITION OF ENERGY theorem, says that the same amount of energy should be present in all degrees of freedom into which energy can spill.
(How does one demonstrate this theorem? Basically, heat is agitation, kinetic energy at the scale of atoms and molecules. This agitation can spill in a more organized manner, in great ensembles, such as vast low and high pressure systems, or large scale dynamics. See the note on entropy and negative temperatures.)
In the case of meteorology, this implies, oversimplifying a bit, that only one-third of the energy should go into heat (and everybody focuses on the augmentation of temperature). Now, of course, since the energy enters the system as heat, non equilibrium thermodynamics imposes more than one-third of the energy will be heat.
As time goes by, though, the other two degrees of freedom, potential energy (represented as the geometry of gradients of pressures, high and low pressure systems, hurricanes) and dynamics (wind speed and vast movements of air masses of varying temperatures and/or pressure; and the same for sea currents) will also store energy.
Thus the new heat created in the lower atmosphere by the increased CO2 greenhouse will be transformed in all sorts of weather weirdness: heat, cold, high and low pressures, wind, and big moves of big things. Big things such as vast re-arrangements of low and high pressure systems, as observed in the Northern Hemisphere, or the re-arrangement of sea currents as apparently also observed, and certainly as it is expected. Since it happened in the past (flash ice age of the Younger Dryas over Europe, 18,000 years ago).
As cold and warm air masses get thrown about, the variability of temperatures will augment all over.
In other words, record snow and cold in the Alps and record warmth simultaneously in England is a manifestation of the equipartition of energy theorem applied to the greenhouse warming we are experiencing. It is not mysterious at all, and brutal variations such as these, including sudden cold episodes, are to be expected, as more and more energy gets stuffed in the planetary climate, and yanks it away from its previous equilibrium.
Wind speed augmentations have already had a spectacular effect: by shaking the waters of the Austral ocean with increasingly violent waves, carbon dioxyde is being removed as if out of a shaken carbonated drink. Thus the Austral ocean is now a net emitter of CO2 (other oceans absorb CO2, and transform it into carbonic acid).
Hence the observed variations are the beginning of something more sinister and alarming. Climate change is changing speed. Up, up, and away.
Note on entropy: Some may object that transforming heat into collective behavior of vast masses of air or sea violates the Second Law Of Thermodynamics, namely that entropy augments always, in any natural process. Well, first of all, the genius of the genus Homo, not to say of all of life itself, rests on local violations of the Second Law. Secondly, the most recent physics recognizes that fundamental considerations allow systems where increased energy lead to increased order (such a system is said to be in a negative temperature state).
Even more revealingly, a massive greenhouse on planet Earth would lead, as happened in the past, to a much more uniform heat, all around the planet, that is, a more ordered state. Meanwhile, the transition to the present order of a temperate climate to the completely different order of an over-heated Earth will bring complete disorder, as observed.
Going to leave you with a picture taken from weather.com
Please, please, please: make a difference! Environmentally, domestically and politically, please make a difference.
A republication of my review of John Zande’s book back in October, 2015.
More than a book review,
a whole new way of looking at you and me, and the rest of humanity.
Back on September 16th, I published the post Of paradoxes, and headaches! It included the fact that I was about 20% of the way through John Zande’s book The Owner of All Infernal Names.
On Tuesday evening of this week, I finished the book and, without doubt, I shall be publishing a review on Amazon books by the end of the week. First, I wanted to share a longer reflection of Zande’s book with all of you dear readers.
One of the many five-star reviews of this book that has been published on the relevant Amazon page opens simply: “This is a beautifully written, terribly uncomfortable book to read.” I couldn’t better that summary. This is, indeed, a beautifully written book. Yet it is also a book that will forever change the way you think about species: Homo sapiens.
Zande offers a powerful argument that, “Following then the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the observer concludes with a level of argued certainty that a Creator must exist.” Then sets out to demonstrate that this Creator, far from being an expression of universal love, is fundamentally an expression of universal suffering. Reminding the reader that, “This world was never good. It was never peaceful, and never without suffering.”
For the first time in my life, Zande’s words had cause for me to reflect on something that, hitherto, had never dawned on me. That if there is a God, why have I, and countless others, assumed that this God be necessarily benevolent. The evidence presented in Zande’s book is comprehensive: that there was an evil origin to the universe and, more directly, that the deep, and growing, suffering of the pinnacle of evolution, us humans, can be traced back to that evil origin. Better than that, frequently the book is almost scientific. And in the best of scientific traditions, Zande adopts the position of a neutral witness.
Whether or not you are relaxed about that previous paragraph, and I suspect many readers will not, it is impossible not to be in awe of the beauty, the power, and the eloquence of Zande’s words. Take this opening paragraph of Zande’s chapter titled A SIGHTLESS CREATION.
It is a basal vagary, a question that screams for attention and if left unresolved – if left problematic – could invalidate all practicalities of a functioning Creation lorded by a maximally wicked Creator: Would sentient, attentive, self-respecting life choose to live in a world underwritten by evil? Could self-aware life endure a thoroughly hopeless reality?
Whether one is a believer in a religious god or not, it will also be impossible not to have one’s deepest emotions and beliefs about the nature of humankind stirred very deeply around. No-one who reads this book will be left unchanged.
If you have ever pondered about the way the world is heading, or more accurately put, about the way that we humans are managing our existence on Planet Earth, then you need to read this book. Period!
So my review of John Zande’s latest book is being published tomorrow.
The village of Chalhuani in Peru has a horrific annual tradition where a dog is tied to the back of a bull at a bullfight as punishment for “bad” behavior. Both of the animals are then painfully killed during the fight.
Video posted by the Mirror exposed this cruel Virgen de la Asuncion tradition in action, sparking global outrage. The video shows a dog being forced onto the back of a bull while it yelps and barks in fear. The terrified dog is tied spread-eagle to the bull, with the ropes so tight it cannot move.
The bull then enters the ring, where it is viciously killed. All the while, the dog is trapped on the bull’s back, unable to save itself from an excruciating death.
One villager tried to justify the cruelty in an interview with a local news station:
“We pick a dog that was disobedient over the past 12 months and has caused trouble,” the villager said. “As a community we see this as a fitting punishment for the dog’s bad behavior.”
But “bad” behavior is no excuse for animal cruelty. No dog deserves this horror.
These bullfights are barbaric and must be stopped. Sign this petition to urge the Peruvian ambassador to the United States to end this terrible practice, so no more animals suffer this horrific fate.
This petition will be delivered to: Ambassador Miguel Castilla
This is the letter to be delivered to the Ambassador:
Letter to Ambassador Miguel Castilla
Stop Tying Dogs to Bulls’ Backs in Cruel Bullfighting ‘Punishment’
The village of Chalhuani in Peru has a horrific annual tradition where a dog is tied to the back of a bull at a bullfight as punishment for “bad” behavior. Both of the animals are then painfully killed during the fight.
These bullfights are barbaric and must be stopped. Not only is animal cruelty an unacceptable form of punishment for dogs, but bulls do not deserve to be forced into fights, where they are tortured and killed for entertainment.
I urge the Peruvian government to ban this horrific practice at once, so no more animals must suffer for this cruel “tradition.”
I am really sorry folks but both today and tomorrow I am adding my tiny shoulder to a very large and heavy wheel. Endeavouring to make a very small difference before I leave this land of the living.
But before going on to share something that was sent to me by Scott Beckstead, the Senior Oregon and Rural Outreach Director of The Humane Society, I want to repeat something that I wrote in response to a comment left to yesterday’s Picture Parade. Because it may be seen as utterly irrelevant to today’s complex world but, nonetheless, it does explain where my love of this planet comes from.
Those beautiful dog’s spirit lives on in the air you breathe, the green of the trees, the beating wings of a hummingbird, the house where they lived and where ever they ran and played. I hope you and Jean feel their presence when things are rough and in the quiet of the night.
I was so moved by those words that almost without any further thought I replied, thus:
Wow! Wow! And Wow!
There is something wondrous about the nature of the human consciousness that still escapes science. Neither me nor Jean are believers in a ‘God’ or subscribe to religious ‘factions’ for so much pain, war and suffering may be laid at the feet of religions (excuse my rant!), but ….
But there is something magical in “the air you breathe, the green of the trees, the beating wings of a hummingbird,” that defies definition. I like to think of it as a deep, connection with the planet that is our womb and sustains us.
This really smacked into me in back in the early 90’s; something that forever changed me. That something I experienced roughly about 4 days out in a solo sailing passage from the Azores to Plymouth. I came up on deck, clipped on, and looked around me. Primarily on the lookout for steaming lights that might indicate a ship in the same patch of ocean. It was after midnight. Having checked there wasn’t a ship in sight, I looked up at what was a totally cloud-free night sky.
What I saw were stars in that night sky that were visible 360 degrees around me. Not only visible in every single direction but visible right down to the edge of that black, ocean horizon. A huge celestial dome centered over this tiny me on my tiny boat. (A Tradewind 33: Songbird of Kent.)
It put into perspective, emotionally, visibly, intellectually and spiritually, how irrelevant one human being is and yet, how each of us is, or should be, the custodian of something immeasurably precious and beautiful: Planet Earth.
(Whoops! Sorry about that! Rather wandered off topic!)
OK, here’s what Scott sent me:
In the past two weeks, USDA Wildlife Services has:
1. Killed an Idaho family’s beloved pet dog;
2. Sent the family’s 14 year-old to the hospital with suspected cyanide poisoning;
3. Killed a Wyoming family’s two beloved pet dogs; and
4. Killed a protected Oregon wolf.
All of these incidents were caused by the M-44, a device used by Wildlife Services that fires a cyanide pellet into an animal’s mouth, causing a slow and agonizing death.
Wildlife Services’ greatest regret in all of these incidents is that they brought the agency more negative press – and given their history, they will probably use all of the incidents as “teaching moments” to instruct their agents to “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND U.S. REP AND URGE THEM TO ELIMINATE FUNDING FOR USDA WILDLIFE SERVICES.
A three-year-old Labrador retriever died and a 14-year boy was knocked to the ground when a cyanide device deployed by the federal government exploded in Pocatello, Idaho.
The Idaho State Journal reported the boy, who had been on a walk with his dog Thursday on a ridge near their home, watched his dog die. According to the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, the boy was also “covered in an unknown substance” when the device known as an M-44 detonated. He was evaluated at a hospital and released.
“That little boy is lucky,” Sheriff Lorin Nielsen told the Pocatello newspaper. “His guardian angel was protecting him.”
The Idaho incident comes a few weeks after a gray wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 on private land in Oregon’s Wallowa County. The controversial type of trap is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services crews around the country primarily to kill coyotes and other predators.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced legislation as recently as 2012 to ban the trap.
DeFazio has said he would reintroduce a similar bill in Congress.
The wolf death was the first documented “incidental take” of its kind in Oregon involving the protected animal and the M-44, fish and wildlife officials said.
Federal Wildlife Services officials said there were 96 M-44 devices dispersed across Oregon as of last week and the agency was looking to remove devices that were near known wolf habitat. Oregon fish and wildlife officials have said the devices were not allowed in areas of known wolf activity.
Oregon has long paid Wildlife Services to kill invasive species and specific predators. But Gov. Kate Brown’s’ recommended budget doesn’t include $460,000 typically set aside to pay the federal agency to kill animals in Oregon.
Bannock County officials described the device as “extremely dangerous to animals and humans.”
The department circulated photos of the trap. “If a device such as this is ever located please do not touch or go near the device and contact your local law enforcement agency,” officials said.
Government officials have said the number of deaths of domestic animals and non-target animals each year is low, and officials say they are conducting an “internal review” of the wolf death.
Wildlife Services killed 121 coyotes in Oregon in 2016 with M-44 devices, along with three red foxes, according to the government’s figures. No gray wolf was killed in the U.S. last year with the cyanide capsules, according to the government.
A Eugene nonprofit says the government isn’t being truthful about the number of pets and non-target animals – such as wolves – killed each year.
“Yesterday’s Idaho poisoning of a dog and the near poisoning of a child is yet another example of what we’ve been saying for decades: M-44s are really nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if it’s a child, a dog, or a wolf,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said in a statement.
“It’s time to ban these notoriously dangerous devices on all lands across the United States.”
— Andrew Theen
I will be writing about another terrible example of cruelty to animals tomorrow. One where you have the opportunity to add your name to a petition trying to have this cruel ‘tradition’ stopped.
Because as Anna Sewell (1820-1878), the English author who was the author of many books including Black Beauty is recorded as saying:
My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.
Resolving the falsehoods may not be so straightforward as one thinks.
I’m going straight into this last post of my mini-series looking at the state of things. Namely a recent essay published by Professor Ronald Pies:
Professor of Psychiatry, Lecturer on Bioethics & Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University; and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine, Tufts University
I am a psychiatrist and ethicist affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY; and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. I write on a variety of cross-disciplinary topics, ranging from mental health to philosophy of mind to spirituality. Most recently, I have authored the novella, “The Late Life Bloom of Rose Rabinowitz;” and the poetry chapbook, “The Myeloma Year.”
Here is that post, republished within the terms of The Conversation.
‘Alternative facts’: A psychiatrist’s guide to twisted relationships to truth
March 1, 2017
The phrase “alternative facts” has recently made the news in a political context, but psychiatrists like me are already intimately acquainted with the concept – indeed, we hear various forms of alternate reality expressed almost every day.
All of us need to parse perceived from actual reality every day, in nearly every aspect of our lives. So how can we sort out claims and beliefs that strike most people as odd, unfounded, fantastical or just plain delusional?
Untruths aren’t always lies
First, we need to make a distinction often emphasized by ethicists and philosophers: that between a lie and a falsehood. Thus, someone who deliberately misrepresents what he or she knows to be true is lying – typically, to secure some personal advantage. In contrast, someone who voices a mistaken claim without any intent to deceive is not lying. That person may simply be unaware of the facts, or may refuse to believe the best available evidence. Rather than lying, he’s stating a falsehood.
Some people who voice falsehoods appear incapable of distinguishing real from unreal, or truth from fiction, yet are sincerely convinced their worldview is absolutely correct. And this is our entree into the psychiatric literature.
In clinical psychiatry, we see patients with a broad spectrum of ideas that many people would find eccentric, exaggerated or blatantly at odds with reality. The clinician’s job is, first, to listen empathically and try to understand these beliefs from the patient’s point of view, carefully taking into account the person’s cultural, ethnic and religious background.
Sometimes, clinicians can be wildly mistaken in their first impressions. A colleague of mine once described a severely agitated patient who was hospitalized because he insisted he was being stalked and harassed by the FBI. A few days into his hospitalization, FBI agents showed up on the unit to arrest the patient. As the old joke goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you!
When what you believe is wrong
We can think of distortions of reality as falling along a continuum, ranging from mild to severe, based on how rigidly the belief is held and how impervious it is to factual information. On the milder end, we have what psychiatrists call over-valued ideas. These are very strongly held convictions that are at odds with what most people in the person’s culture believe, but which are not bizarre, incomprehensible or patently impossible. A passionately held belief that vaccinations cause autism might qualify as an over-valued idea: it’s not scientifically correct, but it’s not utterly beyond the realm of possibility.
On the severe end of the continuum are delusions. These are strongly held, completely inflexible beliefs that are not altered at all by factual information, and which are clearly false or impossible. Importantly, delusions are not explained by the person’s culture, religious beliefs or ethnicity. A patient who inflexibly believes that Vladimir Putin has personally implanted an electrode in his brain in order to control his thoughts would qualify as delusional. When the patient expresses this belief, he or she is not lying or trying to deceive the listener. It is a sincerely held belief, but still a falsehood.
Falsehoods of various kinds can be voiced by people with various neuropsychiatric disorders, but also by those who are perfectly “normal.” Within the range of normal falsehood are so-called false memories, which many of us experience quite often. For example, you are absolutely certain you sent that check to the power company, but in fact, you never did.
As social scientist Julia Shaw observes, false memories “have the same properties as any other memories, and are indistinguishable from memories of events that actually happened.” So when you insist to your spouse, “Of course I paid that electric bill!” you’re not lying – you are merely deceived by your own brain.
A much more serious type of false memory involves a process called confabulation: the spontaneous production of false memories, often of a very detailed nature. Some confabulated memories are mundane; others, quite bizarre. For example, the person may insist – and sincerely believe – that he had eggs Benedict at the Ritz for breakfast, even though this clearly wasn’t the case. Or, the person may insist she was abducted by terrorists and present a fairly elaborate account of the (fictional) ordeal. Confabulation is usually seen in the context of severe brain damage, such as may follow a stroke or the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain.
Lying as a default
Finally, there is falsification that many people would call pathological lying, and which goes by the extravagant scientific name of pseudologia fantastica (PF). Writing in the Psychiatric Annals, Drs. Rama Rao Gogeneni and Thomas Newmark list the following features of PF:
A marked tendency to lie, often as a defensive attempt to avoid consequences. The person may experience a “high” from this imaginative story-telling.
The lies are quite dazzling or fantastical, though they may contain truthful elements. Often, the lies may capture considerable public attention.
The lies tend to present the person in a positive light, and may be an expression of an underlying character trait, such as pathological narcissism. However, the lies in PF usually go beyond the more “believable” stories of persons with narcissistic traits.
Although the precise cause or causes of PF are not known, some data suggest abnormalities in the white matter of the brain – bundles of nerve fibers surrounded by an insulating sheath called myelin. On the other hand, the psychoanalyst Helene Deutsch argued that PF stems from psychological factors, such as the need to enhance one’s self-esteem, secure the admiration of others or to portray oneself as either a hero or a victim.
Who cares about facts anyway?
Of course, all of this presumes something like a consensus on what constitutes “reality” and “facts” and that most people have an interest in establishing the truth. But this presumption is looking increasingly doubtful, in the midst of what has come to be known as the “post-truth era.” Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, described ours as a period in which “up is down and down is up and everything is in question and nothing is real.”
Even more worrisome, the general public seems to have an appetite for falsehood. As writer Adam Kirsch recently argued, “more and more, people seem to want to be lied to.” The lie, Kirsch argues, is seductive: “It allows the liar and his audience to cooperate in changing the nature of reality itself, in a way that can appear almost magical.”
Psychiatrists are not in a position to comment on the mental health of public figures they have not personally evaluated or on the nature of falsehoods sometimes voiced by our political leaders. Indeed, the “Goldwater Rule” prohibits us from doing so. Nevertheless, psychiatrists are keenly aware of the all-too-human need to avoid or distort unpleasant truths. Many would likely nod in agreement with an observation often attributed to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung: “People cannot stand too much reality.”
With Carl Jung’s words echoing in one’s mind the reaction that does come to me and, undoubtedly, to many others, is that the time for limiting what degree of reality we can take on board is rapidly coming to a close.
Or so much more elegantly conveyed by Maya Angelou.
Back to more gentle and soft ideas tomorrow – and that’s the Truth!
These times in this fine country, The United States of America, are troubling as Rebecca Gordon set out so compellingly in yesterday’s post.
But what is so terrible about these times is the failure to put integrity at the heart of every pronouncement that comes from a Government. And it would be grossly unfair to pick on the present US Government as the only example of this failure.
Because just a few mouse clicks can inform millions of us as to the real issues. Such as the effect that Climate Change is having on our health, as this recent Grist article so aptly put it in the opening paragraphs:
Here are 4 ways climate change is messing with our brains — for the worse.
We might think of climate change as purely physical: wildfires blazing through forests, rising seas lapping at the doors of coastal homes.
But those brutal conditions also affect our mental health, changing how we think and act. Mental health professionals are paying attention to the link between climate change and emotional health — and health insurance companies are, too.
Yves here. Grist has been doing an admirable job of keeping on top of this important yet oddly still-under-the-radar story. In the US, the big driver of rising water costs is the need to invest in aging, neglected water works. But water is going to become an issue in many places for differing reasons. As we have been saying for years, the natural resource that is projected to come under pressure first is potable water. And please don’t push desalination as a magic bullet. That costs money (both the plants and new transportation infrastructure, uses energy, plus has the not-trivial problem of how to dispose of the salt residues.
By Ciara O’Rourke, a freelance writer and 2015-16 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Originally published by Fusion and reproduced at Grist as part of the Climate Desk collaboration
When Elizabeth Mack wondered about a future in which Americans wouldn’t be able to pay for water, a couple of colleagues waved her off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” they said. But the idea niggled at Mack, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. And in January, in an article published in the science journal PLOS ONE, she asked a new question: Is there a burgeoning water affordability crisis in the United States?
Yes, integrity in politics is more, so much more, than a nice idea from this silly old Brit now living in Oregon. Here’s a post I published some four years ago that says it as clearly as it needs to be said.
Reflections on Integrity.
Going back to basics.
Many will know the origins of this blog; a chance comment by Jon Lavin back in England in early 2007 that dogs were integrous, (a score of 210 as defined by Dr David Hawkins).
“There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyse the causes of happenings.” Dorothy Thompson.
When I started Learning from Dogs I was initially rather vague but knew that the Blog should reflect the growing need for greater integrity and mindfulness in our planetary civilisation. Here are some early musings,
Show that integrity delivers better results … integrity doesn’t require force … networking power of a group … demonstrate the power of intention … cut through the power of propaganda and media distortion …
Promulgate the idea that integrity is the glue that holds a just society together … urgent need as society under huge pressures …. want a decent world for my grandchildren … for all our grandchildren …. feels like the 11th hour….
But as the initial, rather hesitant, start to the Blog settled into a reliable, daily posting, and as the minuscule number of readers steadily grew to the present level of many hundreds each day, the clarity of the purpose of Learning from Dogs also improved.
Because, while it may sound a tad grandiose and pompous, if society doesn’t eschew the games, half-truths and selfish attitudes of the last, say, 30 years or more, then civilisation, as we know it, could be under threat.
Or, possibly, it’s more accurate to say that our civilisation is under threat and the time left to change our ways, to embrace those qualities of integrity, truth and consciousness for the very planet we all live on, is running out.
“Time left to change our ways is running out.”
So what’s rattled my cage, so to speak, that prompted today’s reflection? I’ll tell you! (You knew I was going to anyway, didn’t you!)
I’m drafting these thoughts around noon Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, 17th. At the same time, tens of thousands of ordinary good folk (40,000 plus at the latest estimate) are gathering by the Washington Monument ready to march past the White House demanding that President Obama block the Keystone XL pipeline and move forward toward climate action.
Do I trust the US Government to take this action? On balance, no! That hurts me terribly to write that. I really want to trust and believe what the President of my new home country says.
Here’s a snippet of what the President did say in his State of the Union speech on February 12th.
Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense.
We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.
A frank admission that the climate is changing in dramatic ways; the overwhelming judgment of science – fantastic!
The evidence that burning carbon-based fuels (coal, oil, gas) is the primary cause of today’s high CO2 levels is overwhelming. As a recent BBC radio programme reveals (being featured tomorrow) huge climate changes going back millions of years are a natural part of Earth’s history. However, as one of the scientists explains at the end of that radio programme, the present CO2 level, 395.55 ppm as of January, is now way above the safe, stable limit for the majority of life species on the planet.
But say you are reading this and are not yet convinced?
Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!
That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is among the most safest forms of transport. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft.
If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!
Which is where my lack of trust of leaders comes from!
Back to that State of the Union speech. Just 210 words after the spoken words “act before it’s too late” (I counted them!) Pres. Obama says, “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”
Here’s the relevant section:
I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.
We don’t require any more oil to be used. We are already using a staggering amount of it. Let me refer you to an essay on Nature Bats Last called Math. The scary kind, not the fuzzy kind. Prof. McPherson wrote:
I performed a little rudimentary math last week. A little because even a little pushes my limit for math, these days. And rudimentary for the same reason. The outcome was staggering: We’re using oil at the rate of 5,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).
“5,500 cubic feet per second” Don’t know about you but I have some trouble in visualising that flow rate. Try this from later in the essay:
Here’s another shot of perspective: We burn a cubic mile of crude oil every year. The Empire State Building, the world’s ninth-tallest building, towers above New York at 1,250 feet. The world’s tallest building, Taipei 101, is 1,667 feet from ground to tip.
Put those buildings together, end to end, and you have one side of a cube. Do it again, and you have the second side. Once more, but this time straight up, and you have one big cube. Filling that cube with oil takes nearly 200 billion gallons … which is about one-sixth the size of the cube of oil we’re burning every year.
Burning a cubic mile every year! Yes, Mr. President, more oil permits is a wonderful way of taking action before it’s too late!
So let’s see what transpires? Let’s see if integrity is given the highest political focus. As in “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Because if there’s ever been a time when all of us, from every spectrum of society need honesty about what we are doing to the planet, it’s now!
As the tag on the home page of this blog says, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.”
Going to close with two more quotations from Mr. Lovelock.
You never know with politicians what they are really saying. And I don’t say that in a negative way-they have an appalling job.
And the second one to close today’s post:
If you start any large theory, such as quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, evolution, it takes about 40 years for mainstream science to come around. Gaia has been going for only 30 years or so.
As you all know, my world is dominated by love. My love for my Jeannie and all the wonderful creatures that inhabit this home and these few acres here in Southern Oregon. Time and time again I share with you stories and articles that I come across that underpin that loving umbrella. Time and time again I am deeply moved by your interest in my scribbles. As I said, my world is dominated by love, and your friendship across this blogging world added to Jean’s love for and attachment to me, has created a little paradise for me.
But! (And you may have sensed there was a ‘But’ coming up.)
But that doesn’t mean that I am immune to being deeply affected by other, more worldly issues, that are as far away from love as one could imagine; more accurately, as far away from love for this wonderful planet as one could imagine.
So for today and the next two days I am going to share with you the pain and angst that I do feel, and feel all too easily, at what we, as in the collective global ‘we’, are up to. Madness doesn’t even seem to touch it!
Today, I am going to republish a recent TomDispatch essay, with Tom’s very kind permission. Tomorrow, I am going to contrast what fellow Brit James Lovelock has been predicting for years with where we really are heading in terms of the future of Planet Earth. Then on Friday, I will finish up with an essay by Professor Ronald Pies regarding the “twisted relationships to truth”.
Donald Trump, now preparing to lead the country into the latest version of our endless wars, recently offered this look back at American military prowess: “We have to start winning wars again. I have to say, when I was young, in high school and college, everybody used to say we never lost a war. We never lost a war, remember?… And now we never win a war. We never win. And don’t fight to win.”
It was a curious bit of “history.” Logically, his memories should have been of victory-less wars, given the ones of his growing up years: Korea and Vietnam (which he evidently avoided thanks to a trumped-up medical condition and whose massive oppositional movement he seems to have ignored).
Born in July 1944, [Ed: I’m a November 1944 baby.] I’m two years older than President Trump and so understand just where he’s coming from: the movies. In those years of his youth and mine, sitting in the darkness catching Hollywood’s vivid version of reality, we both watched Americans win wars ad infinitum. In fact, this is hardly the first time I’ve thought about the on-screen wars of my childhood, actual war, and an American president. Here’s what I wrote back in January 2006, while considering the experiences of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney:
“In the 1940s and 1950s, when the generation of men now ruling over us were growing up, boys could disappear into a form of war play — barely noticed by adults and hardly recorded anywhere — that was already perhaps a couple of hundred years old. In this kind of play, there was no need to enact the complicated present by recreating a junior version of an anxiety-ridden Cold War garrison state… For children in those years, there was still a sacramental, triumphalist version of American history, a spectacle of slaughter in which they invariably fell before our guns. This spectacle could be experienced in any movie theater, and then played out in backyards and on floors with toy six guns (or sticks) or little toy bluecoats, Indians, and cowboys, or green, inch-high plastic sets of World War II soldiers. As play, for those who grew up in that time, it was sunshine itself, pure pleasure. The Western (as well as its modern successor, the war film) was on screen everywhere then.
“When those children grew up (barely), some of them went off to Vietnam, dreaming of John Wayne-like feats as they entered what they came to call ‘Indian country,’ while others sallied off to demonstrate against the war dressed either in the cast-off World War II garb of their fathers or in the movie-inspired get-ups of the former enemy of another age — headbands and moccasins, painted faces, love beads… as well as peace (now drug) pipes. Sometimes, they even formed themselves into ‘tribes.’
“As it turns out, though, there was a third category of young men in those years: those who essentially steered clear of the Vietnam experience, who, as our vice president put it inelegantly but accurately, had ‘other priorities in the sixties.’ Critics have sometimes spoken of such Bush administration figures as ‘chickenhawks’ for their lack of war experience. But this is actually inaccurate. They were warriors of a sort — screen warriors. They had an abundance of combat experience because, unlike their peers, they never left the confines of those movie theaters, where American war was always glorious, our military men always out on some frontier, and the Indians, or their modern equivalents, always falling by their scores before our might as the cavalry bugle sounded or the Marine Hymn welled up. By avoiding becoming either the warriors or the anti-warriors of the Vietnam era, they managed to remain quite deeply embedded in centuries of triumphalist frontier mythology. They were, in a sense, the Peter Pans of American war play.
“…From that same childhood undoubtedly came President Bush’s repeated urge to dress up in an assortment of ‘commander-in-chief’ military outfits, much in the style of a G.I. Joe ‘action figure.’ (Think: doll). It’s visibly clear that our president has long found delight — actual pleasure — in his war-making role, as he did in his Top Gun, ‘mission accomplished’ landing on that aircraft carrier back in 2003…”
Only the other day, Donald Trump made his own landing on an aircraft carrier and strode its deck togged out in a USS Gerald R. Ford green bomber jacket and baseball cap, showing similar pleasure in the experience. It should have had an eerie resonance for us all as we pondered just where our next movie commander-in-chief might lead us. Who could have imagined that, so many decades after the onscreen childhood that The Donald and I shared, we’d all still be at the movies and, as TomDispatch regular and American Nuremberg author Rebecca Gordon points out today, in an American world of forever war as well? Tom American Carnage Fighting the Forever War
By Rebecca Gordon
In his inaugural address, President Trump described a dark and dismal United States, a country overrun by criminal gangs and drugs, a nation stained with the blood seeping from bullet-ridden corpses left at scenes of “American carnage.” It was more than a little jarring.
Certainly, drug gangs and universally accessible semi-automatic weapons do not contribute to a better life for most people in this country. When I hear the words “American carnage,” however, the first thing I think of is not an endless string of murders taking place in those mysterious “inner cities” that exist only in the fevered mind of Donald Trump. The phrase instead evokes the non-imaginary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in real cities and rural areas outside the United States. It evokes the conversion of millions of ordinary people into homeless refugees. It reminds me of the places where American wars seem never to end, where new conflicts seem to take up just as the old ones are in danger of petering out. These sites of carnage are the cities and towns, mountains and deserts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and other places that we don’t even find out about unless we go looking. They are the places where the United States fights its endless wars.
During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump often sounded like a pre-World War II-style America First isolationist, someone who thought the United States should avoid foreign military entanglements. Today, he seems more like a man with a uniform fetish. He’s referred to his latest efforts to round up undocumented immigrants in this country as “a military operation.” He’s similarly stocked his cabinet with one general still on active duty, various retired generals, and other military veterans. His pick for secretary of the interior, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, served 23 years as a Navy SEAL.
Clearly, these days Trump enjoys the company of military men. He’s more ambivalent about what the military actually does. On the campaign trail, he railed against the folly that was — and is — the (second) Iraq War, maintaining with questionable accuracy that he was “totally against” it from the beginning. It’s not clear, however, just where Trump thinks the folly lies — in invading Iraq in the first place or in failing to “keep” Iraq’s oil afterward. It was a criticism he reprised when he introduced Mike Pompeo as his choice to run the CIA. “Mike,” he explained, “if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place.” Not to worry, however, since as he also suggested to Pompeo, “Maybe we’ll have another chance.” Maybe the wrong people had just fought the wrong Iraq war, and Donald Trump’s version will be bigger, better, and even more full of win!
Perhaps Trump’s objection is simply to wars we don’t win. As February ended, he invited the National Governors Association to share his nostalgia for the good old days when “everybody used to say ‘we haven’t lost a war’ — we never lost a war — you remember.” Now, according to the president, “We never win a war. We never win. And we don’t fight to win. We don’t fight to win. So we either got to win, or don’t fight it at all.”
The question is, which would Trump prefer: Winning or not fighting at all? There’s probably more than a hint of an answer in his oft-repeated campaign promise that we’re “going to win so much” we’ll “get tired of winning.” If his fetish for winning — whether it’s trade wars or shooting wars — makes you feel a little too exposed to his sexual imagination, you’re probably right. In one of his riffs on the subject, he told his audience that they would soon be pleading they had “a headache” to get him to stop winning so much — as if they were 1950s housewives trying to avoid their bedroom duty. But daddy Trump knows best:
“And I’m going to say, ‘No, we have to make America great again.’ You’re gonna say, ‘Please.’ I said, ‘Nope, nope. We’re gonna keep winning.’”
There’s more than a hint of where we’re headed in Trump’s recent announcement that he’ll be asking Congress for a nearly 10% increase in military spending, an additional annual $54 billion for the Pentagon as part of what he calls his “public safety and national security budget.” You don’t spend that kind of money on toys unless you intend to play with them.
Trump explained his reasoning, in his trademark idiolect, his unique mangling of syntax and diction:
“This is a landmark event, a message to the world, in these dangerous times of American strength, security, and resolve. We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our name only do one thing, win. We have to win.”
So it does look like the new president intends to keep on making war into the eternal future. But it’s worth remembering that our forever wars didn’t begin with Donald J. Trump, not by a long shot.
The Forever Wars
Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel, The Forever War, which won the three major science fiction prizes, a Hugo, a Nebula, and a Locus, was about a soldier involved in a war between human beings and the Taurans, an alien race. Because of the stretching of time when traveling at near light-speed (as Einstein predicted), while soldiers like Haldeman’s hero passed a few years at a time at a front many light-years from home, the Earth they’d left behind experienced the conflict as lasting centuries. Published just after the end of the Vietnam War — fought for what seemed to many Americans like centuries in a land light-years away — The Forever War was clearly a reflection of Haldeman’s own experience in Vietnam and his return to an unrecognizable United States, all transposed to space.
In 1965, Haldeman had been drafted into that brutal conflict, probably one of those that Donald Trump thinks we didn’t “fight to win.” It certainly seemed like a forever war while it lasted, especially if you included the French colonial war that preceded it. But it did finally end, decisively, with an American loss (although, in a sense, it’s still being fought out by the thousands of Vietnam veterans who live on the streets of our country).
After the attacks of 9/11 and George W. Bush’s declaration of a Global War on Terror, some people found the title of Haldeman’s novel a useful shorthand for what seemed to be an era of permanent war. It gave us a way of describing then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s vision of a new kind of war against an enemy located, as he told NBC’s Meet the Press on September 30, 2001, “not just in Afghanistan. It is in 50 or 60 countries and it simply has to be liquidated. It has to end. It has to go out of business.”
More than 15 years later, after a decade and a half of forever war in the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are still in business, along with a set of new enemies, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon; al-Shabaab in Somalia; and ISIS, which, if we are to believe the president and his cronies, is pretty much everywhere, including Mexico. In a war against a tactic (terrorism) or an emotion (terror), it’s hardly surprising that our enemies have just kept proliferating, and with them, the wars. It’s as if Washington were constantly bringing jets, drones, artillery, and firepower of every sort to bear on a new set of Taurans in another galaxy.
Decades before Haldeman’s Forever War, George Orwell gave us an unforgettable portrait of a society controlled by stoking permanent hatred for a rotating cast of enemies. In 1984, the countries of the world have coalesced into three super-nations — Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia. Winston Smith, the novel’s protagonist, recalls that, since his childhood, “war had been literally continuous, though strictly speaking it had not always been the same war.” Smith joins thousands of other citizens of Oceania in their celebration of Hate Week and observes the slick substitution of one enemy for another on the sixth day of that week:
“…when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the two thousand Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.”
Except that there is no actual announcement. Rather, the Party spokesman makes the substitution in mid-oration:
“The speech had been proceeding for perhaps twenty minutes when a messenger hurried onto the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker’s hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia!
And it had always been thus. “Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”
1984 is, of course, a novel. In our perfectly real country, human memories work better than they do in Orwell’s Oceania. Or do they? The United States is at war with Iraq. The United States has always been at war with Iraq. Except, of course, when the United States sided with Iraq in its vicious, generation-destroying conflict with Iran in the 1980s. Who today remembers Ronald Reagan’s “tilt toward Iraq” and against Iran? They’re so confusing, those two four-letter countries that start with “I.” Who can keep them straight, even now that we’ve tilted back toward what’s left of Iraq — Trump has even removed it from his latest version of his Muslim ban list — and threateningly against Iran?
Many Americans do seem to adapt to a revolving enemies list as easily as the citizens of Oceania. Every few years, I ask my college students where the terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 came from. At the height of the (second and still unfinished) Iraq War, when many of them had brothers, sisters, lovers, even fathers fighting there, my students were certain the attackers had all been Iraqis. A few years later, when the “real men” were trying to gin up a new opportunity to “go to Tehran,” my students were just as sure the terrorists had been from Iran. I haven’t asked in a couple of years now. I wonder whether today I’d hear that they were from Syria, or maybe that new country, the Islamic State?
I don’t blame my students for not knowing that the 9/11 attackers included 15 Saudis, two men from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one Egyptian, and one Lebanese. It’s not a fact that’s much trumpeted anymore. You certainly wouldn’t guess it from where our military aid and American-made weaponry goes. After Afghanistan ($3.67 billion) and Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt is the next largest recipient of that aid at $1.31 billion in 2015.
Of course, military aid to other countries is a windfall for U.S. arms manufacturers. Like food money and other forms of foreign aid from Washington, the countries receiving it are often obligated to spend it on American products. In other words, much military “aid” is actually a back-door subsidy to companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Being wealthy oil states, the Saudis and the UAE, of course, don’t need subsidies. They buy their U.S. arms with their own money — $3.3 billion and $1.3 billion worth of purchases respectively in 2015. And they’re putting that weaponry to use, with U.S. connivance and — yes, it should make your head spin in an Orwellian fashion — occasional support from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, by taking sides in a civil war in Yemen. U.S.-made fighter planes and cluster bombs have put more than seven million Yemenis in imminent danger of starvation.
War Without End, When Did You Begin?
When did our forever war begin? When did we start to think of the president as commander-in-chief first, and executor of the laws passed by Congress only a distant second?
Was it after 9/11? Was it during that first Iraq war that spanned a few months of 1990 and 1991? Or was it even earlier, during the glorious invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury? That was the first time the military intentionally — and successfully — kept the press sequestered from the action for the first 48 hours of that short-lived war. They did the same thing in 1989, with the under-reported invasion of Panama, when somewhere between 500 and 3,500 Panamanians died so that the United States could kidnap and try an erstwhile ally and CIA asset, the unsavory dictator of that country, Manuel Noriega.
Or was it even earlier? The Cold War was certainly a kind of forever war, one that began before World War II ended, as the United States used its atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to, as we now say, “send a message” to the Soviet Union. And it didn’t end until that empire imploded in 1991.
Maybe it began when Congress first abdicated its constitutional right and authority to declare war and allowed the executive branch to usurp that power. The Korean War (1950-1953) was never declared. Nor were the Vietnam War, the Grenada invasion, the Panama invasion, the Afghan War, the first and second Iraq wars, the Libyan war, or any of the wars we’re presently involved in. Instead of outright declarations, we’ve had weasely, after-the-fact congressional approvals, or Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, that fall short of actual declarations of war.
The framers of the Constitution understood how important it was to place the awesome responsibility for declaring war in the hands of the legislative branch — of, that is, a deliberative body elected by the people — leaving the decision on war neither to the president nor the military. Indeed, one of the charges listed against King George III in the Declaration of Independence was: “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the others who met in the stifling heat of that 1776 Philadelphia summer, close enough to battle to hear the boom of British cannons, decided they could no longer abide a king who allowed the military to dominate a duly constituted civil government. For all their many faults, they were brave men who, even with war upon them, recognized the danger of a government controlled by those whose sole business is war.
Since 9/11, this country has experienced at least 15 years of permanent war in distant lands. Washington is now a war capital. The president is, first and foremost, the commander-in-chief. The power of the expanding military (as well as paramilitary intelligence services and drone assassination forces, not to mention for-profit military contractors of all sorts) is emphatically in presidential hands. Those hands, much discussed in the 2016 election campaign, are now Donald Trump’s and, as he indicated in his recent address to Congress, he seems hell-bent on restoring the military to the superiority it enjoyed under King George. That is a danger of the first order.