Why is the history of animal welfare an incessant procession of incalculable defeats? Why, after hundreds of years of welfarism (the first welfare law was enacted in 1641, and welfarists have been trying to implement their ideology for the past couple of hundred years), is humans' hegemony over other animals still absolute? Why do we have gestation crates and battery cages; drug addiction and burn experiments? Why has animal welfare not negated institutionalized animal exploitation at all? In Animals, Property, and the Law and Rain Without Thunder, Gary Francione provides the answer. Francione identifies two major problems that as it were castrate animal welfare and render it pathetically impotent: (1) animals are property; and (2) humans have property rights in animals.
Within the framework of Anglo-American legal systems, animals are accorded the status of property -- which means that they are regarded exclusively as means to human ends. They have no intrinsic value; rather they have only extrinsic or conditional value – in other words, they have only that value which we, as animal property owners, choose to give them.
Animals are thus completely rightless beings (i.e. they are legally entitled to nothing) and (legally) have value only as means to our ends.
Humans, on the other hand, have rights in general and property rights in animals in particular.
A presupposition of Anglo-American legal systems is that rights have special normative force. Rights are (to use Ronald Dworkin’s metaphor) “trumps”: “they give [powerful] reasons to treat their holders in certain ways or permit them to act in certain ways, even if some social aim would be served by doing otherwise.” That is, rights invariably trump competing (non-right) considerations.
The implications of this legal framework -- a framework that characterizes humans as rightholders and animals as rightless property -- for a non-right consideration such as animal welfare are clear. Animals’ interests are (supposedly) protected by welfare laws. Exploiters’ property interests in animals are protected by rights (property rights). Thus we have a conflict between interests protected by right and interests protected by welfare laws -- between exploiters' property interests in animals and animals' interest in not being used as property. That is, we have a “conflict” between a right and a non-right consideration. The entailment here is obvious:
Exploiters’ property interests in animals always trump animals’ (welfare) interests.
Because exploiters’ property rights trump animals’ interests, it follows that any welfare law that sought to accord animals protection that impinges on exploiters’ property rights (i.e., that wasn’t also in the exploiters’ interest) would invariably be rejected by the framework of the system.
Thus the system of animal welfare is inherently incapable of doing anything other than ministering to exploiters’ property interests: If a welfare law is in the (economic) interest of the exploiters, then it may be accepted; but if the welfare measure is not in the interest of the exploiters, then it will necessarily be rejected. Ironically, then, animal welfare protects the interests exploiters have in animals rather then the interests of the animals -- in other words, animal welfare protects the exploiters and not the animals.
Within a legal framework that allocates property rights in animals, animal welfare cannot exist; thus animal welfare groups (RSPCA, HSUS, PeTA etc.) are inherently redundant. Welfare groups represent a non-right consideration that will invariably be “trumped” by the fact that exploiters have property rights in animals. Thus welfare groups will be able to secure for animals only that protection that exploiters take to be cost-justified -- which basically means that protection necessary to exploit animals efficiently. But as exploiters will accord animals this level of protection anyway (in order to protect their economic investment in their animal property), animal welfare groups in particular, and the animal welfare movement in general, may as well not exist.
The only function that welfare groups do perform is a wholly insidious one: they reinforce the legitimacy of a vicious speciesist framework (or “animal welfare”, as it's euphemistically known) that will sacrifice any animal interest for the sake of any human interest -- notwithstanding the gravity of the former and the triviality of the latter -- thereby prolonging the horrific exploitation of nonhumans animals.
The special normative force of property rights within Anglo-American legal systems thus leads to a system of animal welfare that is virulently anthropocentric and anti-animal: in order to protect exploiters’ property rights in animals, it will allow animals to be treated in the most horrendous ways imaginable (gestation crates, veal crates, battery-cages), as long as the treatment is economically efficient. Welfare laws merely preclude the gratuitous waste of animal property; because animal property is a very valuable species of property, and if it was gratuitously wasted, overall social wealth would be diminished.
Francione’s property analysis refutes one of the most ossified dogmas of new welfarism: that there is a causal relationship between animal welfare in the short and animal rights in the long term, such that successive welfare reforms will eventually lead to abolition. Animal welfare has no abolitionistic function whatsoever, because animals’ property status (and the corresponding property rights that exploiters have in animals) acts as an inherently limiting factor in the system: it keeps reform tied to the status of animals as commodities -- limiting the scope thereof to what exploiters take to be cost-justified in light of animals’ property status (anything that wasn't cost-justified would begin to infringe exploiters' property rights in animals); wefare reform cannot transcend this narrow point, and thus is inherently incapable of leading to abolition.
On the contrary, far from being capable of leading to abolition, the diametric opposite is the case: because the system pemits only those reforms that do not infringe exploiters' property rights in animals (i.e., that do not erode animals' property status), animal welfare is structurally incapable of challenging the framework of oppression and "can lead only to more and exacerbated animal exploitation." (Francione)
Accordingly, since there is no causal relationship between welfare in the short term and rights in the long term, and since welfare is capable of eliminating animal suffering only if exploiters' property rights aren't infringed thereby (which effectively means that only suffering that results from inefficient practices can be banned), it follows that animal welfare is of use only to the exploiters -- and welfarist ideologues.
The contradiction between the property rights that exploiters have in animals and the societal desire to afford animals some measure of protection is resolved by having welfare laws that protect only those animal interests -- institutional interests -- that need to be protected in order to exploit them efficiently -- which amounts to no protection at all. So, for example, there are welfare regulations requiring that animals in vivisection laboratories be given food and water; but this is only because, if they weren't given food and water, they would die and so wouldn't yield any data for vivisectors. Again, because animals are legally regarded exclusively as means to human ends, the welfare regulations protect the interests the vivisection industry has in the animals rather than the interets of the animals for their own sakes.
Thus welfare laws and regulations do not represent a partial negation of animals' property status or legal "thinghood", and a corresponding recognition that they have inherent value and morally significant interests. Rather, because welfare laws protect only those animal interests that relate to their use as property -- their use as means to human ends -- they merely represent a codification of their enslavement.
In short, animal welfare laws in particular are slave laws; and animal welfare in general conceals institutionalized animal slavery under a meretricious cloak of respectability, thereby sanitizing it and helping to maintain its legitimacy.
In sum: animal welfare is capable only of further codifying animals' property status; it is inherently incapable of recognizing that animals' have inherent value -- value independent of the economic value they have for exploiters -- and thus of eroding their property status and ultimately leading to abolition. Far from having any liberatory potential for nonhumans, then, animal welfare can only consolidate the animals-as-property paradigm.
Of course, this means that the new welfarist "radicals" are trying to achieve change for animals using a system of reform that is predicated on the legitimacy of the animal-commodity and that solicitously protects the despotic control that animal property owners are (legally) entitled to wield over their living, breathing commodities. To put the matter another way, the new welfarists are trying to qualitatively alter animals' property status using a system that structurally ensures that animals remain property -- and it is their property status that makes possible all of the suffering to which we so vehemently object.
Ironically, then, the new welfarists have become coopted by a system that is predicated on the legitimacy of that which they (puportedly at least) want to abolish. As such, the new welfarists prove themselves to be reactionaries who militate against radical change by reinforcing an anachronistic and viciously speciesist system that subserves the unbridled hegemony of humans over other animals -- and that is therefore a consitutive part of the speciesist oppression of nonhumans.
Thus as far as the abolitionist movement is concerned, animal welfare is unqualifiedly redundant. Far from being the method whereby we will incrementally abolish animal exploitation, or even a palliative for reducing animal suffering in the short term, animal welfare is -- in reality -- an institutionalized part of existing speciesist society -- a reactionary instrument that subserves the oppressive framework under which nonhumans are enslaved.
The abolitionists' rejection of animal welfare does not mean -- as welfarist ideologues would have you believe -- that abolitionists are anti-reformist. On the contrary and ironically, because they reinforce the legitimacy of a sclerotic and ossified system of animal welfare that inherently precludes change, it is the new welfarists who are "anti-reformist". The abolitionist approach is based partly on the insight that it is impossible to reform animal exploitation through animal welfare, for the simple reason that the system of welfare reform is a constitutive part of the framework of oppression that requires reformation. As such, the new welfarist "reformers" confuse the object of reform with the means thereof.
A first principle of the abolitionist movement, then, must be the rejection of animal welfare and the recognition that, to effect a paradigm shift in attitudes toward the human-nonhuman relationship, we must use qualitatively different means from those utilized by the welfare movement (and what has passed for the "animal rights" movement hitherto). We must recognize that radicalism mediated through reactionary institutions is a contradiction in terms; the former is necessarily nullified by the latter. We must rejectinstitutional exploiters.reject welfare reform and the institutions and industries that seek to neutralize radicalism with meretricious and illusory offers of progress. We must reject hypocrisy and inconsistency -- we must eschew animal welfare and make our means consistent with our ends.
Instead, we must make veganism a nonnegotiable baseline and engage directly with the real locus of abolition -- people themselves -- since abolition means abolishing exploitation in our own lives.
Local businesses and farms produce more income, jobs, and tax receipts for local communities than big box stores do.
Local businesses and farms are more likely to utilize local ads, banks and other services.
Local businesses donate more money to nonprofits and are more accountable to their local communities.
Supporting local businesses preserves the economic diversity of our communities and the unique character of our neighborhoods.
Supporting local businesses and farmers is good for the environment, because it cuts down on fuel consumption. Buying locally produced goods reduces the need to ship goods from thousands of miles away and also cuts down on the distances shoppers travel.
Harper is the quintessential Seattle radical - intimidation, bluster and temper trump dialog. More here.
Joshua Harper, a West Coast coordinator for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, was sentenced to three years in prison and was ordered to help pay a total of $1 million in restitution to the company and people he helped terrorize. Yesterday, three other members of the group were sentenced to prison for terms ranging from four to six years...
...the...activists were convicted in March of using a Web site to incite threats, harassment and vandalism against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a Britain-based company that tests drugs and household products on animals.....The government charged that the group waged a five-year campaign against the company, posting the names, addresses and phone numbers of Huntingdon employees and those who do business with the company, and personal information such as where they go to church and where their children attend school. Many of those people saw their homes vandalized and received threatening e-mails, faxes and phone calls. The group, based in Philadelphia, maintained its actions were protected under the First Amendment.
There may be some legitimate issues around animal testing for household products, and cosmetics; even if far less so in relation to life and death medical research. But inciting threats to researchers and pinpointing their homes and families is beyond the pale. There is no better way to harm one's cause than with such tactics. Feel free to message the animal wrongs convict Josh Harper here. But as he's been banned from the Internet for a while - quite understandably, as it turns out - they'll have to forward your bon mots to him. Advice: surprise Josh by being radically.......civil.
Why Suffer?: How I Overcame Illness & Pain Naturally by Dr. Ann Wigmore, DD, ND. An Inspiring Classic.
Dr. Ann's autobiography about growing up with her homeopath Grandmother in Lithuania, healing herself of gangrene as a teenager, and discovering wheatgrass juice and raw living foods as the treatment for her cancer, after the doctors gave up on her. The findings and Wigmore Diet Program of Dr. Ann, used by thousands to reverse dis-ease, detoxify & rejuvenate. Paperback, 182 pages.
Published on Tuesday, May 30, 2006 by the Independent / UK Why It's Over For America by Noam Chomsky An inability to protect its citizens. The belief that it is above the law. A lack of democracy. Three defining characteristics of the 'failed state'. And that, says Noam Chomsky, is exactly what the US is becoming. In an exclusive extract from his devastating new book,"Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," America's leading thinker explains how his country lost its way.
The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern for human welfare and rights is, naturally, a subjective matter. But there are a few choices that seem unavoidable, because they bear so directly on the prospects for decent survival. Among them are at least these three: nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world's leading power is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes. It is important to stress the government, because the population, not surprisingly, does not agree.
That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy, one of the reasons for the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that, as Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, "the American 'system' as a whole is in real trouble - that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values [of] equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy."
The "system" is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti). Though the concept is recognized to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, "frustratingly imprecise," some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified. One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious "democratic deficit" that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.
Among the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake, and one of the most important, is to look honestly in the mirror. If we allow ourselves to do so, we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of "failed states" right at home.
No one familiar with history should be surprised that the growing democratic deficit in the United States is accompanied by declaration of messianic missions to bring democracy to a suffering world. Declarations of noble intent by systems of power are rarely complete fabrication, and the same is true in this case. Under some conditions, forms of democracy are indeed acceptable. Abroad, as the leading scholar-advocate of "democracy promotion" concludes, we find a "strong line of continuity": democracy is acceptable if and only if it is consistent with strategic and economic interests (Thomas Carothers). In modified form, the doctrine holds at home as well.
The basic dilemma facing policymakers is sometimes candidly recognized at the dovish liberal extreme of the spectrum, for example, by Robert Pastor, President Carter's national security adviser for Latin America. He explained why the administration had to support the murderous and corrupt Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and, when that proved impossible, to try at least to maintain the US-trained National Guard even as it was massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy," killing some 40,000 people. The reason was the familiar one: "The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely."
Similar dilemmas faced Bush administration planners after their invasion of Iraq. They want Iraqis "to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely." Iraq must therefore be sovereign and democratic, but within limits. It must somehow be constructed as an obedient client state, much in the manner of the traditional order in Central America. At a general level, the pattern is familiar, reaching to the opposite extreme of institutional structures. The Kremlin was able to maintain satellites that were run by domestic political and military forces, with the iron fist poised. Germany was able to do much the same in occupied Europe even while it was at war, as did fascist Japan in Man-churia (its Manchukuo). Fascist Italy achieved similar results in North Africa while carrying out virtual genocide that in no way harmed its favorable image in the West and possibly inspired Hitler. Traditional imperial and neocolonial systems illustrate many variations on similar themes.
To achieve the traditional goals in Iraq has proven to be surprisingly difficult, despite unusually favorable circumstances. The dilemma of combining a measure of independence with firm control arose in a stark form not long after the invasion, as mass non-violent resistance compelled the invaders to accept far more Iraqi initiative than they had anticipated. The outcome even evoked the nightmarish prospect of a more or less democratic and sovereign Iraq taking its place in a loose Shiite alliance comprising Iran, Shiite Iraq, and possibly the nearby Shiite-dominated regions of Saudi Arabia, controlling most of the world's oil and independent of Washington.
The situation could get worse. Iran might give up on hopes that Europe could become independent of the United States, and turn eastward. Highly relevant background is discussed by Selig Harrison, a leading specialist on these topics. "The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European Union were based on a bargain that the EU, held back by the US, has failed to honor," Harrison observes.
"The bargain was that Iran would suspend uranium enrichment, and the EU would undertake security guarantees. The language of the joint declaration was "unambiguous. 'A mutually acceptable agreement,' it said, would not only provide 'objective guarantees' that Iran's nuclear program is 'exclusively for peaceful purposes' but would 'equally provide firm commitments on security issues.'"
The phrase "security issues" is a thinly veiled reference to the threats by the United States and Israel to bomb Iran, and preparations to do so. The model regularly adduced is Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, which appears to have initiated Saddam's nuclear weapons programs, another demonstration that violence tends to elicit violence. Any attempt to execute similar plans against Iran could lead to immediate violence, as is surely understood in Washington. During a visit to Tehran, the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned that his militia would defend Iran in the case of any attack, "one of the strongest signs yet," the Washington Post reported, "that Iraq could become a battleground in any Western conflict with Iran, raising the spectre of Iraqi Shiite militias - or perhaps even the US-trained Shiite-dominated military - taking on American troops here in sympathy with Iran." The Sadrist bloc, which registered substantial gains in the December 2005 elections, may soon become the most powerful single political force in Iraq. It is consciously pursuing the model of other successful Islamist groups, such as Hamas in Palestine, combining strong resistance to military occupation with grassroots social organizing and service to the poor.
Washington's unwillingness to allow regional security issues to be considered is nothing new. It has also arisen repeatedly in the confrontation with Iraq. In the background is the matter of Israeli nuclear weapons, a topic that Washington bars from international consideration. Beyond that lurks what Harrison rightly describes as "the central problem facing the global non-proliferation regime": the failure of the nuclear states to live up to their nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation "to phase out their own nuclear weapons" - and, in Washington's case, formal rejection of the obligation.
Unlike Europe, China refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the growing fear of China on the part of US planners. Much of Iran's oil already goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons, presumably considered a deterrent to US threats. Still more uncomfortable for Washington is the fact that, according to the Financial Times, "the Sino-Saudi relationship has developed dramatically," including Chinese military aid to Saudi Arabia and gas exploration rights for China. By 2005, Saudi Arabia provided about 17 per cent of China's oil imports. Chinese and Saudi oil companies have signed deals for drilling and construction of a huge refinery (with Exxon Mobil as a partner). A January 2006 visit by Saudi king Abdullah to Beijing was expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for "increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas, and minerals."
Indian analyst Aijaz Ahmad observes that Iran could "emerge as the virtual linchpin in the making, over the next decade or so, of what China and Russia have come to regard as an absolutely indispensable Asian Energy Security Grid, for breaking Western control of the world's energy supplies and securing the great industrial revolution of Asia." South Korea and southeast Asian countries are likely to join, possibly Japan as well. A crucial question is how India will react. It rejected US pressures to withdraw from an oil pipeline deal with Iran. On the other hand, India joined the United States and the EU in voting for an anti-Iranian resolution at the IAEA, joining also in their hypocrisy, since India rejects the NPT regime to which Iran, so far, appears to be largely conforming. Ahmad reports that India may have secretly reversed its stand under Iranian threats to terminate a $20bn gas deal. Washington later warned India that its "nuclear deal with the US could be ditched" if India did not go along with US demands, eliciting a sharp rejoinder from the Indian foreign ministry and an evasive tempering of the warning by the US embassy.
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move toward greater independence has seriously troubled US planners since World War II, and concerns have significantly increased as the tripolar order has continued to evolve, along with new south-south interactions and rapidly growing EU engagement with China.
US intelligence has projected that the United States, while controlling Middle East oil for the traditional reasons, will itself rely mainly on more stable Atlantic Basin resources (West Africa, western hemisphere). Control of Middle East oil is now far from a sure thing, and these expectations are also threatened by developments in the western hemisphere, accelerated by Bush administration policies that have left the United States remarkably isolated in the global arena. The Bush administration has even succeeded in alienating Canada, an impressive feat.
Canada's minister of natural resources said that within a few years one quarter of the oil that Canada now sends to the United States may go to China instead. In a further blow to Washington's energy policies, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, Venezuela, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government. Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with China, with some setbacks, but likely expansion, in particular for raw materials exporters like Brazil and Chile.
Meanwhile, Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming very close, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil while in return Cuba organizes literacy and health programs, sending thousands of highly skilled professionals, teachers, and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the Third World. Cuba-Venezuela projects are extending to the Caribbean countries, where Cuban doctors are providing healthcare to thousands of people with Venezuelan funding. Operation Miracle, as it is called, is described by Jamaica's ambassador to Cuba as "an example of integration and south-south cooperation", and is generating great enthusiasm among the poor majority. Cuban medical assistance is also being welcomed elsewhere. One of the most horrendous tragedies of recent years was the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. In addition to the huge toll, unknown numbers of survivors have to face brutal winter weather with little shelter, food, or medical assistance. One has to turn to the South Asian press to read that "Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan," paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), and that President Musharraf expressed his "deep gratitude" for the "spirit and compassion" of the Cuban medical teams.
Some analysts have suggested that Cuba and Venezuela might even unite, a step towards further integration of Latin America in a bloc that is more independent from the United States. Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union, a move described by Argentine president Nestor Kirchner as "a milestone" in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as opening "a new chapter in our integration" by Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Independent experts say that "adding Venezuela to the bloc furthers its geopolitical vision of eventually spreading Mercosur to the rest of the region."
At a meeting to mark Venezuela's entry into Mercosur, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said, "We cannot allow this to be purely an economic project, one for the elites and for the transnational companies," a not very oblique reference to the US-sponsored "Free Trade Agreement for the Americas," which has aroused strong public opposition. Venezuela also supplied Argentina with fuel oil to help stave off an energy crisis, and bought almost a third of Argentine debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the control of the US-dominated IMF after two decades of disastrous effects of conformity to its rules. The IMF has "acted towards our country as a promoter and a vehicle of policies that caused poverty and pain among the Argentine people," President Kirchner said in announcing his decision to pay almost $1 trillion to rid itself of the IMF forever. Radically violating IMF rules, Argentina enjoyed a substantial recovery from the disaster left by IMF policies.
Steps toward independent regional integration advanced further with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, the first president from the indigenous majority. Morales moved quickly to reach energy accords with Venezuela.
Though Central America was largely disciplined by Reaganite violence and terror, the rest of the hemisphere is falling out of control, particularly from Venezuela to Argentina, which was the poster child of the IMF and the Treasury Department until its economy collapsed under the policies they imposed. Much of the region has left-center governments. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies, and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in SUVs in traffic gridlock. Some are even calling for an "Indian nation" in South America. Meanwhile the economic integration that is under way is reversing patterns that trace back to the Spanish conquests, with Latin American elites and economies linked to the imperial powers but not to one another. Along with growing south-south interaction on a broader scale, these developments are strongly influenced by popular organizations that are coming together in the unprecedented international global justice movements, ludicrously called "anti-globalization" because they favor globalization that privileges the interests of people, not investors and financial institutions. For many reasons, the system of US global dominance is fragile, even apart from the damage inflicted by Bush planners.
One consequence is that the Bush administration's pursuit of the traditional policies of deterring democracy faces new obstacles. It is no longer as easy as before to resort to military coups and international terrorism to overthrow democratically elected governments, as Bush planners learnt ruefully in 2002 in Venezuela. The "strong line of continuity" must be pursued in other ways, for the most part. In Iraq, as we have seen, mass nonviolent resistance compelled Washington and London to permit the elections they had sought to evade. The subsequent effort to subvert the elections by providing substantial advantages to the administration's favorite candidate, and expelling the independent media, also failed. Washington faces further problems. The Iraqi labor movement is making considerable progress despite the opposition of the occupation authorities. The situation is rather like Europe and Japan after World War II, when a primary goal of the United States and United Kingdom was to undermine independent labor movements - as at home, for similar reasons: organized labor contributes in essential ways to functioning democracy with popular engagement. Many of the measures adopted at that time - withholding food, supporting fascist police - are no longer available. Nor is it possible today to rely on the labor bureaucracy of the American Institute for Free Labor Development to help undermine unions. Today, some American unions are supporting Iraqi workers, just as they do in Colombia, where more union activists are murdered than anywhere in the world. At least the unions now receive support from the United Steelworkers of America and others, while Washington continues to provide enormous funding for the government, which bears a large part of the responsibility.
The problem of elections arose in Palestine much in the way it did in Iraq. As already discussed, the Bush administration refused to permit elections until the death of Yasser Arafat, aware that the wrong man would win. After his death, the administration agreed to permit elections, expecting the victory of its favored Palestinian Authority candidates. To promote this outcome, Washington resorted to much the same modes of subversion as in Iraq, and often before. Washington used the US Agency for International Development as an "invisible conduit" in an effort to "increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas" (Washington Post), spending almost $2m "on dozens of quick projects before elections this week to bolster the governing Fatah faction's image with voters" (New York Times). In the United States, or any Western country, even a hint of such foreign interference would destroy a candidate, but deeply rooted imperial mentality legitimates such routine measures elsewhere. However, the attempt to subvert the elections again resoundingly failed.
The US and Israeli governments now have to adjust to dealing somehow with a radical Islamic party that approaches their traditional rejectionist stance, though not entirely, at least if Hamas really does mean to agree to an indefinite truce on the international border as its leaders state. The US and Israel, in contrast, insist that Israel must take over substantial parts of the West Bank (and the forgotten Golan Heights). Hamas's refusal to accept Israel's "right to exist" mirrors the refusal of Washington and Jerusalem to accept Palestine's "right to exist" - a concept unknown in international affairs; Mexico accepts the existence of the United States but not its abstract "right to exist" on almost half of Mexico, acquired by conquest. Hamas's formal commitment to "destroy Israel" places it on a par with the United States and Israel, which vowed formally that there could be no "additional Palestinian state" (in addition to Jordan) until they relaxed their extreme rejectionist stand partially in the past few years, in the manner already reviewed. Although Hamas has not said so, it would come as no great surprise if Hamas were to agree that Jews may remain in scattered areas in the present Israel, while Palestine constructs huge settlement and infrastructure projects to take over the valuable land and resources, effectively breaking Israel up into unviable cantons, virtually separated from one another and from some small part of Jerusalem where Jews would also be allowed to remain. And they might agree to call the fragments "a state." If such proposals were made, we would - rightly - regard them as virtually a reversion to Nazism, a fact that might elicit some thoughts. If such proposals were made, Hamas's position would be essentially like that of the United States and Israel for the past five years, after they came to tolerate some impoverished form of "statehood." It is fair to describe Hamas as radical, extremist, and violent, and as a serious threat to peace and a just political settlement. But the organization is hardly alone in this stance.
Elsewhere traditional means of undermining democracy have succeeded. In Haiti, the Bush administration's favorite "democracy-building group, the International Republican Institute," worked assiduously to promote the opposition to President Aristide, helped by the withholding of desperately needed aid on grounds that were dubious at best. When it seemed that Aristide would probably win any genuine election, Washington and the opposition chose to withdraw, a standard device to discredit elections that are going to come out the wrong way: Nicaragua in 1984 and Venezuela in December 2005 are examples that should be familiar. Then followed a military coup, expulsion of the president, and a reign of terror and violence vastly exceeding anything under the elected government.
The persistence of the strong line of continuity to the present again reveals that the United States is very much like other powerful states. It pursues the strategic and economic interests of dominant sectors of the domestic population, to the accompaniment of rhetorical flourishes about its dedication to the highest values. That is practically a historical universal, and the reason why sensible people pay scant attention to declarations of noble intent by leaders, or accolades by their followers.
One commonly hears that carping critics complain about what is wrong, but do not present solutions. There is an accurate translation for that charge: "They present solutions, but I don't like them." In addition to the proposals that should be familiar about dealing with the crises that reach to the level of survival, a few simple suggestions for the United States have already been mentioned: 1) accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court; 2) sign and carry forward the Kyoto protocols; 3) let the UN take the lead in international crises; 4) rely on diplomatic and economic measures rather than military ones in confronting terror; 5) keep to the traditional interpretation of the UN Charter; 6) give up the Security Council veto and have "a decent respect for the opinion of mankind," as the Declaration of Independence advises, even if power centers disagree; 7) cut back sharply on military spending and sharply increase social spending. For people who believe in democracy, these are very conservative suggestions: they appear to be the opinions of the majority of the US population, in most cases the overwhelming majority. They are in radical opposition to public policy. To be sure, we cannot be very confident about the state of public opinion on such matters because of another feature of the democratic deficit: the topics scarcely enter into public discussion and the basic facts are little known. In a highly atomized society, the public is therefore largely deprived of the opportunity to form considered opinions.
Another conservative suggestion is that facts, logic, and elementary moral principles should matter. Those who take the trouble to adhere to that suggestion will soon be led to abandon a good part of familiar doctrine, though it is surely much easier to repeat self-serving mantras. Such simple truths carry us some distance toward developing more specific and detailed answers. More important, they open the way to implement them, opportunities that are readily within our grasp if we can free ourselves from the shackles of doctrine and imposed illusion.
Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to seek to induce pessimism, hopelessness, and despair, reality is different. There has been substantial progress in the unending quest for justice and freedom in recent years, leaving a legacy that can be carried forward from a higher plane than before. Opportunities for education and organizing abound. As in the past, rights are not likely to be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions - attending a few demonstrations or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics." As always in the past, the tasks require dedicated day-by-day engagement to create - in part recreate - the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena, from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from which it is excluded in principle. There are many ways to promote democracy at home, carrying it to new dimensions. Opportunities are ample, and failure to grasp them is likely to have ominous repercussions: for the country, for the world, and for future generations.
Noam Chomsky, the eminent intellectual and author, is a professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
WHY I DON'T WEAR WOOL: TAKE A HARD LOOK AT HOW SHEEP ARE TREATED DOWN UNDER by Amy Elizabeth (www.citizen-times.com)
March 21 - As I write this, I'm warding off the winter chill with a cotton turtleneck, a polyester fleece pullover, polyester long underwear, cotton corduroys and acrylic socks. But not so much as a stitch of wool. Why not? Because I don't buy wool. For ethical reasons.
Most people look at you funny when you say you don't wear wool. "Oh, you're allergic, right?" Nope. "Hate the dry-cleaning?" Yes, but that's not the only reason. "It's too heavy? Smells funny? Takes too long to dry?" Yes, yes and yes, but still no cigar.
When you confess that your primary reason for forgoing fleece is for the benefit of the sheep, foreheads start to pucker. Most people envision a sheep farm to be something like Farmer Hoggett's in the movie "Babe," sans the talking pig, of course. You know, rolling hills, perky sheep dogs, cozy barns, that sort of thing. While bucolic, blissful farms like this may still exist somewhere in James Herriot's Yorkshire, that's not where most of the wool we buy comes from.
Chances are, no matter where you live, your wool comes from the land down under. With 120 million sheep, Australia is the world's largest producer of Merino wool (the kind used for most clothing). Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, so it's impossible for farmers to treat them with the tender loving care Farmer Hoggett and his talented pig would provide.
Australian sheep are basically on their own. They get rounded up and tossed into the sheep dip every once in a while, but mostly, it's just them, the kangaroos and the, uh-oh, dingoes.
When the shepherd does "tend" to them, lambs have their tails amputated without anesthetic. Little boy lambs are particularly blue because they are castrated without painkillers. Ouch. Shearing isn't a walk in the park, either, since it is automated and done at lightning speed to accommodate such huge numbers of animals. Protruding sheep parts accidentally get lopped off. Shades of Lorena Bobbitt, if you catch my drift.
The Australians mainly raise Merino sheep because their wrinkly skin produces more wool per animal. Trouble is, the wrinkles collect urine and moisture, which attracts flies, which lay eggs, which hatch into maggots, and ... you get the picture. So the colonists came up with an ingenious (or egregious - you be the judge) solution: They slice a chunk of skin off the lamb's rear end in order to create a massive scar that pulls the skin tighter, reducing wrinkles. Yes, it's just as gruesome as you're imagining, and the wounds often become infested with flies before they heal. But, hey, if it was good enough for grandpa, it's good enough for me, mate.
The worst is still to come for these fuzzy denizens of the outback. Once sheep become old or unproductive, they are shipped to slaughter. In Australia, this usually means being herded onto trucks and transported huge distances overland to the coast, where they are loaded onto ships bound for the Middle East.
The ships are huge - up to 14 tiers high - with up to 125,000 sheep packed like sardines into each one.
The journey can take several weeks; many sheep die of sickness, trampling or starvation when they are unable to reach the food trough.
Why not just kill the sheep in Australia and ship the meat to the Middle East? Because Middle Eastern consumers want flesh that has been butchered ritually, which means no prior stunning. The sheep's throats are slit while they are fully conscious.
So that's why I boycott wool. And you know what? I manage to keep quite warm and toasty without it. No matter what the wool industry may say, nothing keeps you warmer than polyester fleece. It's lightweight and water repellent, two things wool is not.
Throw on a layer of Gore-Tex and you're ready for a kayak trip down the Nantahala in February - or even just a stroll around the grounds at Biltmore. Your body will stay plenty warm without wool, but warmest of all may be your heart.
Amy Elizabeth has a degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Colorado. She lives in Morganton.
A couple of years ago, a homeowner in Seattle decided to take extreme action against the moles that had turned his lawn into a complex network of raised grassy veins. He poured gasoline into the mole holes, tossed a match and incinerated his yard.
Many of the approximately 60 million Americans with lawns can understand the feeling. A well-tended yard is not only personal territory, to be defended unto death, but also a work of art. Like a painting, it has form and color. Like a child, it is alive. No wonder feelings run high, and the lawn, as a canvas for personal expression, engages the suburban American male at the deepest possible level. Americans like Jerry Tucker, who turned his yard into a replica of the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club.
The often-crazed love affair between Americans and their lawns is Ted Steinberg's subject in "American Green." Mr. Steinberg, an environmental historian at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, likens this relationship, and the insane pursuit of lawn perfection, to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and he may very well be right. That would at least explain the behavior of a homeowner who clips her entire front yard with a pair of hand shears, or Richard Widmark's reaction on waking up in the hospital after a severe lawn mower accident in 1990. "The question I asked the doctors was not 'Will I ever act again?' " he later recalled, "but 'Will I ever mow again?' "
How did a plant species ill suited to the United States, and the patrician taste for a rolling expanse of green take root from the shores of the Atlantic to the desiccated terrain of Southern California? The short answer is that it didn't, not until after the Civil War. Although Washington and Jefferson had lawns, most citizens did not have the hired labor needed to cut a field of grass with scythes. Average homeowners either raised vegetables in their yards or left them alone. If weeds sprouted, fine. If not, that was fine, too.
Toward the end of the 19th century, suburbs appeared on the American scene, along with the sprinkler, greatly improved lawn mowers, new ideas about landscaping and a shorter work week. A researcher investigating the psychology of suburbanites in 1948 observed shrewdly that the American work ethic coexisted uneasily with free time, and that "intense care of the lawn is an excellent resolution of this tension." At least until the moles arrive.
Mr. Steinberg cannot decide whether he is writing a cultural history, an environmental exposé or a series of Dave Barry columns. As cultural history, "American Green" is relentlessly superficial, a grab bag of airy generalizations and decrepit clichés about the cold war and the conformist 1950's. As environmental exposé, it is confused and poorly explained. It is impossible, reading Mr. Steinberg on lawn-care products, to assess risks. At times, it sounds as if any homeowner spreading the standard lawn fertilizers and herbicides might as well take out a gun and shoot his family. A few pages later, the environmental threat seems trivial.
Sometimes, he simply punts. Building a case against power mowers, which Mr. Steinberg regards as unsafe at any speed, he introduces the story of a "lawn professional" who lost the fingers on both hands while trying to keep a wayward mower from rolling into a lake. This might be a damning piece of evidence if Mr. Steinberg did not then add, sheepishly, that "perhaps this is a suburban legend." Half-serious, intellectually incoherent, "American Green" shambles along like this, scattering bits and pieces of history, sociology and consumer advice as it goes.
There are just enough fascinating bits to keep the pages turning. It is gratifying to learn that grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. An observer looking down at his own lawn sees brown dirt along with green grass blades, but only grass blades next door, because of the angle of vision. It is useful to focus on one of the pet claims of the lawn-care industry, that a lawn 50 feet square produces enough oxygen to satisfy the respiratory needs of a family of four. This is probably true, but, as Mr. Steinberg points out, superfluous, since there is no oxygen shortage on Earth.
Mr. Steinberg does make the case fairly convincingly that the pursuit of the perfect lawn cannot be explained without golf, which has played on the homeowner's weak sense of self-esteem by rubbing his face in fantasy images. Perfection at Augusta requires a team of specialists and a multimillion-dollar investment in infrastructure. The average golf green gets more pampering and primping than Heidi Klum's cheekbones, but that is the lawn that suburbanites want. Companies like Scotts have convinced them that to achieve it, they need to follow a regimen of constant seeding, watering, fertilizing and herbiciding.
The future looks troubled for the American lawn. Some homeowners have given up entirely, paving over their yards to create more parking space. Others are embracing the native-plant movement and turning their lawns into miniature prairies and meadows. Nellie Shriver, of the Fruitarian Network, stopped mowing for moral reasons. "It is impossible to mow the grass without harming it," she said. "We believe grass has some sort of consciousness, that it has feelings."
Even more alarming, for the lawn-care industry, is the kind of post-lawn sensibility exhibited by an Atlanta real estate broker. "When something bores me, I get rid of it," she said. "Lawns bore me."
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