Apr 302014

We’re just through our first tornado outbreak of the season. It was certainly nothing like 2011 in terms of widespread death and destruction, but there are still about three dozen people dead, with considerable property damage. We also have massive flooding on the Gulf, with damage comparable to a hurricane strike in some places.

Some people in other parts of the country saw great humor potential in this, and took to Twitter to delight in what they perceived as a little chlorine in the gene pool. Others decided we deserved it, because we’re just a bunch of red states anyway. It’s just a bit of comeuppance, right? Let’s have a laugh at the hicks’ expense!

MNMusicBitch took a look at the situation and announced

I like to think of tornadoes in the south as “culling the herd”

She got a lot of negative attention for that, as you might imagine. She spat venom as best she could for a while, but finally gave up and hid her tweets. To that I replied

Hiding your tweets is cowardly, don’t you think? Why not do something truly unexpected and apologize for your insensitivity?

TariAkpodiete tweeted

Suddenly we’re supposed to forget the nasty attitudes of hateful right wing states when they catch fire or have an earthquake or tornado?

Noting that she listed her location as Toronto, I replied

It would appear you don’t live in the United States. Have you ever spent any time in the American South?

She blocked me for that. I disappeared. Can’t you see why? I mean, I was really being a jerk, right?

KENTping said

The ignorance of the red states in the south on global warming is now paying off …stupid rightwing hicks!

Do go enjoy his Twitter feed at some length. Spittle-flecked, barely coherent rage is not a good look for an ostensibly grown man.

There are several other gems at that Twitchy post, including lots of crowing about if we really want smaller government down here, we’ll refuse federal assistance, and lots of other heartwarming stuff.

As unpleasant as this kind of reaction is, I’m not really surprised by it. I’ve touched both a gun and a Bible in the past 24 hours, and that makes me and anyone like me fair game for this kind of nonsense. There is no attempt to understand me. There is no attempt to respect the South. There is only denigration.

What does surprise me, just a bit, is that none of these people ever relented. MNMusicBitch, who appears to be a wife and mother, rode it all the way into the ground. There is a mother in Arkansas who will bury her 8-year-old son this week. No worries! Just “culling the herd.”

Something like

All, I was a bit over the line with my earlier comment. It was insensitive and I apologize.

would have been all that was necessary. Jumping out with “wit” in the heat of the moment on social media happens. But it takes sustained nastiness to own and defend comments like these all the way to the end.

My friend Miria, when she pointed out the article to me, said

I might not like any of these people, but I haven’t crossed that line of hoping that they die a painful death, much less cheering on as the death toll rises. There is a basic decency missing in these people, and I want no part of their circle.

She’s exactly right. To all those delighting in the South’s misfortune:  y’all are badly broken. And I’m delighted to be so fundamentally different from you.

 Posted by at 7:12 pm
Apr 292014

animalwelfareWhen we start talking about animals, our relationships with them, and our responsibilities to them, then factory farming is eventually going to use up a lot of the oxygen in the room.

Guess we better start talking about that.

Remember, I’m not an “animal rights” guy in the way you thought of when I used that term. That’s kind of the point of this entire post series. There are many things going on as a matter of course that can reasonably give “just walkin’ around folks” pause.

Until very recently, I didn’t pay much attention to shrieking about “factory farming,” because I assumed that’s just what it was. Most of the people trying to get my attention on it seemed as likely to start in about calling fish “sea kittens” or trees having souls or something, and it was easy to tune out.

The truth is that there are several things going on—things of which you likely want no part—to bring animal products to your grocery store.

The subject of factory farming shall span several posts, so let’s ease into it. Let’s talk about chickens to start. Chickens bring their meat and their eggs to the table, which gives them broad relevance. Most vegetarians still eat eggs, after all.

I don’t think there’s much going on in a chicken’s head. I think a chicken—any domesticated fowl, really—probably has three things hard-coded:  eat, don’t get eaten, and have sex.

Probably little of that even rises to the level of thought. In a lot of ways, instinct is as basic as breathing or blood circulation. It just is. We have no reason to think a chicken is capable of considering the contents of its own mind. Chickens can’t reason.

Ah, but what about feelings? Can a chicken be happy or sad?

I think it’s silly to suppose a chicken has complex emotions. However, it’s pretty easy to observe what chickens do with their time when they have a choice. Chickens roam. Chickens take it in. That they consistently choose to do so demonstrates that it’s important to them on some level.

So it’s pretty clear to me that a lot of common practices in commercial chicken houses are deplorable. Debeaking is a thing, and there is no anesthesia administered. Most “broilers“—meat chickens—are raised in growout houses, while most egg-laying hens are raised in battery cages.

In either case, the amount of space per bird is about half the area of the screen you’re reading this on (unless you’re reading it on your phone). They often can’t get out of their own excrement, so they develop painful ammonia burns on their legs and feet.

There’s an even worse dark side to industrial egg production. Obviously only hens lay eggs, so what to do with male chicks born to egg-laying chickens? Are they sold for meat? No, that’s not profitable. They don’t grow large enough or quickly enough.

They are instead systematically killed shortly after birth. Male chicks have their necks broken, or they are asphyxiated. It’s legal (and widely practiced) to drop them alive into a grinder. Electrocution is also gaining popularity as a method of “dealing” with male chicks.

Thousands of male chicks have died in these ways just since you started reading this post. You can see it here, but be warned. It can’t be unseen.

I love eggs, and I’m going to keep eating them. But commercial egg production is brutally cruel, and I’m not going to support it. So what do I do?

Eggs are actually a fairly easy problem for us to solve. We now get our eggs from a former colleague of mine who raises chickens in her backyard. I pay her $3 a dozen, and though it’s just a little legwork to get them, no chicks are dropped alive into grinders for my omelet. (Plus, they are so tasty. Wow, they just pop!)

You can probably solve the problem the same way, though it may take a little looking. Or, you can seek out well-documented eggs at specialty stores. Don’t assume eggs at a mainstream supermarket are “safe.” Lots of times they’re festooned with things that sound great like “No Antibiotics! No Hormones!” (Well, guess what? It’s illegal to treat any poultry with antibiotics or hormones in the United States. The claim is meaningless.)

Chicken meat is harder, and we haven’t clicked that over yet, though we will soon. Unfortunately, “free range” doesn’t mean very much on a grocery store package, because the bar to get over for such a claim is so low. My stepbrother actually purchases chickens from a local farmer, and I’m going over soon for a lesson on how to cut and prepare one. Our new meat habits will coincide with a chest freezer in the garage.

The garage freezer is my primary summer project.

Nature is neither kind nor cruel. Nature merely is. We—people—have been blessed with ethics, morals, and sufficient mental horsepower to act on them. If we’re going to assume that dominion over animals means we can eat them, as I and many other reasonable people do, then that’s one thing. But it’s quite another to discard basic respect for life and well-being.

I’m going to eat the chicken. But there is plenty of room in my world view for reasonably ensuring that the chicken enjoys its life.

Knowing what you know now, is there in yours?

 Posted by at 1:22 pm
Apr 272014

My back-and-forth on Twitter yesterday with a stereotypically sanctimonious Christian has me thinking about a recent conversation with my friend Paul.

Paul and I are both former denizens of Usenet, and hsv.general in particular.

Many of us hsv.generalites would habitually joke about the state of our discourse. We were legendarily argumentative. We’d go for weeks.

Thing is, no one does that anymore. I went from disagreeing with this guy yesterday to blocked in less than an hour.

Ten or fifteen years ago, we may have vehemently differed. But we assumed honor on the part of our discursive opponent. We assumed a reasonable person who had arrived at a different conclusion. The lengths of our arguments were testimonies to that respect.

We don’t do that now. You disagree? You disappear.

It’s a logical progression of the self-selection of ideas. No one of us need encounter too icky a reality. You don’t fit exactly what I think? You go away. You don’t exist.

This is a truly grave, but largely unacknowledged, threat to civilized society.

 Posted by at 8:30 pm
Apr 252014

On Wednesday, Georgia governor Nathan Deal signed the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 into law. The law greatly expands where Georgians with concealed carry permits can carry a gun, including bars, churches, school zones, government buildings, and even some parts of airports.

Critics of the law have called it the “Guns Everywhere” law. That sounds fine to me. I’d love a society in which it was as reasonable to assume a person was carrying a firearm as it was to assume s/he had a wallet or car keys.

This should be an excellent opportunity to observe what happens to the crime rate when the number of armed, law-abiding citizens in public places greatly increases.

To Georgians who are now terrified of the ubiquitous bloodbath that inevitably awaits, I offer the following advice:  move somewhere with much stricter gun laws so you’ll feel safer.

Like Chicago.

 Posted by at 8:32 am
Apr 242014
  • We’re in a good patch of window fan weather, and I adore it. Yes, it was a cold winter, and yes, we always have a few near-unbearable summer days. But local folks, remember how it feels right now. We have more of these days than any other kind, when you think about it.
  • As cold as the winter was, only one of my gas bills was over $100 (and not by much). That certainly isn’t the case for an electric bill during a hot summer.
  • There were moments of brilliance from both Blake Sims and Cooper Bateman in Alabama’s spring game. Bateman’s 40-yard fade to Foster was precise and beautiful. But, there are also major questions of consistency. If the conventional wisdom holds, all of this competition is to back up Jacob Coker anyway.
  • I think the post-Lent meat orgy is mostly over for me (and yes, I enjoyed it tremendously). I’m now thinking seriously about what changes I want to make long-term.
  • We’re reading Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty at AlabamiansCanRead.com this month. Come join us!
  • A single Nilla wafer has 18 calories. A Girl Scouts Thin Mint has 40. A regular Chips Ahoy! or Oreo has 53. An E.L. Fudge has 85. An Oatmeal Creme Pie has 170. A Moon Pie has 220.
  • The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, just east of Birmingham. This is a world-class facility, and a very exciting race. If you’re looking for something different to do this weekend, go check this out.
  • Apparently sending a photograph of your penis to a young lady in whom you are interested is a thing now, and not nearly as radical a thing as I would like. Men, no woman worth your time will respond favorably to a “dick pic.” Women, no man worth your time will send you a “dick pic.” Are we clear?
 Posted by at 7:15 am
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