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Groove of the Day
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One of the most interesting objects on my desk is a copper cigarette box with a bronze bas-relief on the lid of the above illustration. It commemorates the first flight across the English Channel in 1909 by French aviator, inventor, and engineer Louis Blériot (1872 – 1936).
The historic flight has been eclipsed by subsequent accomplishments in aviation and nearly forgotten, but at the time it was a very big deal. The Daily Mail newspaper offered a £500 prize in October 1908 for a successful flight being completed before the end of the year. However, when 1908 passed with no serious attempt being made, the prize money was doubled to £1,000 and the offer extended to the end of 1909. This would be like offering £100,000 (or $165,000) today. The Paris newspaper Le Matin commented that there was no chance of the prize being won.
Blériot, who intended on flying across the Channel in his Type XI monoplane, had three rivals for the prize: Hubert Latham, who was favored by both the United Kingdom and France to win; Charles de Lambert, a Russian aristocrat of French ancestry and one of Wilbur Wright’s pupils; and Arthur Seymour, an Englishman who reputedly owned a biplane. Wilbur Wright wanted to make an attempt and cabled his brother Orville in the US, but Orville—then recuperating from serious injuries sustained in a crash—replied not to make a Channel attempt until he could come to France and assist. The Wrights had already amassed a fortune in prize money for altitude and duration flights and had secured sales contracts for the Wright Flyer with the French, Italians, British, and Germans; both brothers saw the Channel reward of only a thousand pounds as insignificant considering the dangers of the flight.
Latham made an attempt on July 19, but 6 miles from his destination his aircraft developed engine trouble and was forced to make the world’s first landing of an aircraft on the sea. Latham was rescued by a French destroyer and taken back to France, where he heard the news that Blériot had entered the competition. Blériot, accompanied by two mechanics and a friend, arrived in Calais on Wednesday July 21 and set up a base at a farm near the beach near Calais. The following day a replacement aircraft for Latham was delivered. The wind was too strong for an attempted crossing on Friday and Saturday, but on Saturday evening it began to drop, raising hopes in both camps.
At 4:15 am on Sunday July 25, watched by an excited crowd, Blériot made a short trial flight in his Type XI, and then, on a signal that the sun had risen (the competition rules required a flight between sunrise and sunset), he took off at 4:41 for the attempted crossing. Flying at approximately 45 mph (72 km/h) at an altitude of about 250 ft (76 m), he set off across the Channel. Not having a compass, Blériot took his course from the Escopette, which was heading for Dover, but he soon overtook the ship. The visibility had deteriorated and he later said, “for more than 10 minutes I was alone, isolated, lost in the midst of the immense sea, and I did not see anything on the horizon or a single ship.”
The grey line of the English coast came into sight on his left; however, the wind had increased and had blown him to the east of his intended course. Altering course, he followed the line of the coast about a mile offshore until he spotted the correspondent from Le Matin waving a large Tricolor flag as a signal. Blériot had not visited Dover to find a suitable spot to land, and the choice had been made by the correspondent, who had selected a patch of gently sloping land near Dover Castle. Once over land, he circled twice to lose height, and cut his engine at an altitude of about 66 ft (20 m), and made a heavy “pancake” landing due to the gusty wind conditions. The undercarriage was damaged and the propeller blade was shattered, but Blériot was unhurt. The flight had taken 36 minutes and 30 seconds.
News of his departure had been sent by radio to Dover, but it was generally expected that he would attempt to land on the beach west of town. The Daily Mail correspondent, realizing that Blériot had landed near the castle, set off at speed in an automobile and brought Blériot back to the harbor, where he was reunited with his wife. The couple, surrounded by cheering people and photographers, was then taken to an hotel. Blériot had become a celebrity.
When Louis Blériot became the first aviator to fly over the English Channel from France, his fragile plane was put on display for four days at Selfridges, the innovative London department store, drawing crowds of more than 150,000. The aircraft used in the crossing is now preserved in the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.
Groove of the Day
70° and Cloudy
If the American Dream is unattainable, it seems to me it should be seen for what it is: an illusion. If the battle cannot be won on conventional terms, you’ve got to redefine the battlefield so that the struggle becomes something that can be won. This advice comes from no less a strategist than Napoleon.
What we have here is the result of a culture that gives everyone an award for just showing up, a culture that does not teach our boys to learn the lessons that failure has to teach. That if you can’t succeed at one thing, you try another. Instead, we set up our kids for mediocrity and failure, and fail to teach them to imagine and try other possibilities where they can shine.
Some of these guys are (or were) just so off-the-chart crazy, some anti-social act was inevitable. But how did they get that way? Could we have offered more positive outlets for their extreme emotions? Might they have taken them instead?
Men and mass murder: What gender tells us about America’s epidemic of gun violence
by Damon Linker, The Week
October 6, 2015
Another week (or day) in America, another mass shooting.
Another mass shooting, another flood of liberal attacks on gun culture, the Second Amendment, and the NRA. And another round of conservative pushback asserting some version of “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” And another Barack Obama press conference railing at our failure to “do something” to stop the violence. And another Nicholas Kristof column about how we need to regulate guns like cars. And another flurry of calls to do a better job of responding to mental health problems.
And on and on and on. The specific victims and perpetrators change, of course, but the actions and reactions recur endlessly, as if all Americans were condemned to relive a single horrific trauma over and over again, with each faction in our national debate about gun violence playing their parts, never deviating from their scripts.
Not long ago, I made my own contribution to the conversation, expressing despair that anything can significantly change this horrifying facet of our national life and culture. There are already hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, and a program of mass confiscation would never be enacted. A not-insubstantial portion of the population ends up driven to use these deadly weapons to murder their fellow citizens, and it’s not at all clear how anything can be done to keep someone from acting out in a homicidal-suicidal orgy of violence if he is hell-bent on doing so.
But realism (or fatalism) doesn’t preclude trying to understand why it keeps happening. And as far as I’m concerned, the most disturbing (and also least discussed) aspect of America’s epidemic of mass shootings is the fact that they are almost invariably committed by men.
Murder is an overwhelmingly male act, with the offender proving to be a man 90 percent of the time the person’s gender is known. When it comes to mass shootings, the gender disparity is even greater, with something like 98 percent of them perpetrated by men.
We don’t lack for explanations. To cite just a few: There’s good, old-fashioned male aggression; the emotional immaturity of boys in comparison to girls; cultural norms that lead men to consider it unacceptable to ask for help, especially about mental and emotional problems; and the pervasiveness of graphically violent forms of entertainment, including video games that place the player in the position of the “shooter.”
All of these and other factors probably contribute in various ways to many shootings, with the decisive ones varying from case to case.
But there is an additional factor that doesn’t get discussed as much as it should: the role of a distorted (but also extremely common) form of moral thinking in the psychology of men who commit mass murder.
I’m talking about the tendency of mass shooters to fixate on perceived injustices ranging from racial and sexual slights to various interpersonal and career-related failures. Shooters are murderously angry—and they’re angry because they feel like the world has failed to give them the rewards they deserve.
The notion of desert stands close to the core of moral experience and belief. Most of us feel that those who are good deserve to triumph (or be rewarded) and those who are bad deserve to fail (or be punished). The American Dream of upward economic mobility, along with the postwar culture of meritocracy, presumes that our country is organized to make it happen: those who work hard will rise and those who do not will fall.
There’s been a lot of recent talk about the breakdown of the American Dream, with leading public figures claiming that upward mobility has slowed considerably. Studies, meanwhile, appear to show that things may not be getting significantly worse, after all—although they also show that mobility in the U.S. lags behind what many other countries enjoy.
But the focus on change over time and international comparisons obscures the fact that to a considerable extent the American Dream has always been more of a myth than reality. Some people start off the race of life with enormous (natural and conventional) advantages over others. And for the biggest leaps up the economic ladder, luck always plays an indeterminate but substantial role.
Which means that deserving has very little, if anything, to do with the outcome.
It would be one thing if discovering this fact were an occasion for temporary disappointment or sadness. But that’s not how many of us respond to evidence of the world’s imperfect justice. We respond with anger. And when the injustices pile up, the anger can curdle into righteous indignation—into the conviction that the world itself is broken, that it’s not merely failing to function as we’ve been taught it should, but that it’s actually operating backwards, by systematically punishing those (like oneself) who deserve to succeed and rewarding those who deserve to fail.
Men and women both experience righteous indignation, of course. But there may be something specific about masculinity—perhaps its deep ties to irrational pride—that leads some men to experience a perceived injustice (and especially a string of them) as an excruciating personal humiliation that cries out not just for redress but for revenge. In this way, wounded pride provokes some men to lash out in a violent fury at their fellow human beings as a way of striking back at the intolerable injustice of the world.
By all means, let’s continue to push for intelligent restrictions on guns. And for better ways to protect ourselves from them. And for better health services for the mentally ill.
But along with these well-intentioned efforts, it couldn’t hurt to try and do a better job of teaching our kids—and especially our boys—that the world owes and guarantees them absolutely nothing. Setbacks and failures will always be painful. But they needn’t be viewed as a sign that an existential promise has been betrayed—or treated as moral justification for a testosterone-fueled homicidal temper tantrum.
Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is also a consulting editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press, a former contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test.
Groove of the Day
70° Cloudy and Rain
On Saturday, the US launched an airstrike on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 22 people, including 12 aid workers, 3 children, and wounding 37. Doctors Without Borders is calling the incident a war crime.
“Under the rules of international humanitarian law, a hospital is a hospital and the people inside are patients—to target a medical facility in this way is a violation of that, whatever the circumstances,” Vickie Hawkins, executive director of the UK branch of Doctors Without Borders, said in an interview on PRI’s The Takeaway. “The statements that have been coming out of the Afghan government in the past 24 hours would lead us to believe that there was some kind of intent behind the attack. We can only presume, on this basis, that that constitutes a war crime.” Doctors Without Borders says it will now withdraw its support from Kunduz.
The US says the strike in Kunduz, which is under investigation, was issued after Afghan forces came under fire near the hospital and then called for help.
“An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck,” the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, said during a press briefing Monday. This is the first time I’ve heard 59 casualties being characterized as “several,” but it’s certainly not the first or last time “the truth” has become a casualty of war.
It seems to me that Doctors Without Borders is splitting hairs. They’re working in a war zone for chrissake. All kinds of bad shit happens in war zones. Their people must accept certain risks when they choose to serve in such a place as Kunduz. Doctors Without Borders as an organization is supporting an immoral war by choosing to participate there, versus countless other places in the world where people are suffering. Let’s get real.
The real “war crime” is that we’re (still) in Afghanistan in the first place. The Bush Administration used 9/11 as a thin excuse to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that neither country had anything to do with destroying the Twin Towers, attacking the Pentagon, or downing the passenger jet in Pennsylvania. The real war criminals are Bush, Cheney, and others who engineered this phase of our endless war using falsified information.
This graphic is making the rounds right now on Facebook and the Internet:
It’s fairly misleading because it only describes our discretionary spending. If you were to combine the US government’s discretionary and mandatory spending, the truth would look more like this:
Yet what both charts describe is how dependent we’ve become on war as a component of our economy. We have been in a state of constant war since the end of World War II. Maybe I’m guilty of hyperbole, but it seems all we’re good at anymore is producing weapons, building prisons, and scheming new ways to charge interest on loans. We’ve become a coercive society. This is what Eisenhower warned of when he spoke of the military-industrial complex.
This ethic of coercion and control has fouled many sectors where it has no business existing:
We’re being spied upon, lied to, exploited (if we’ve got the money to pay), enslaved (if we don’t have the coin), and manipulated into believing we’re the most free people in the world—but we’re not.
If an ancestor who fell at Kip’s Bay, Shiloh, Belleau Wood, Kasserine Pass, or Khe Sanh were to return to the America of today, would he think he’d died in vain? Would he believe himself to have been the victim of a war crime—or at least a betrayal?
Groove of the Day
72° Increasing Cloudiness and Rain
The first thing I am going to admit is, in a way, I don’t know what I am talking about. I moved to West Texas (with its spotty cell phone coverage) before smart phones were invented, and I don’t even have an old-time cell phone anymore. So I’m not in the mindset and becoming more alienated by the day.
I was an early adopter of cell phones back in the day when they were the size of a brick, but I bought into the technology when cell phones were still telephones and we used them as such. Now that they are used for text messaging, access to the Internet, as cameras, for social networking, listening to music, finding nearby restaurants or call-girls, and access to all manner of apps that tie you into god-knows-what, the vast majority of smartphone users have become zombies who rarely-if-ever take their eyes off their devices or even speak to other people on the phone.
The other day, some New Yorkers were complaining on the radio about how smartphone users walk too slowly on crowded sidewalks, absorbed in their narcissistic, private worlds. I’m not a New Yorker, but I can see how they’d be annoyed.
The other day on the radio, someone else reported on a piece of research that somebody did suggesting that the typical smartphone user spends six hours a day checking their messages. This is believable considering that their “phones” are continually vibrating, chirping, ringing or whatever, pushing some message or another which must be attended to NOW. It is insane, and if true, unproductive in the extreme.
Call me a Luddite if it will make you feel better, but I think smartphones are really dumb.
For example, take people who pay good money to attend the cinema, concerts, and sporting events. A recent study found that 31% of them are spending at least half of the time at these events looking down at their phones—some even watching concerts on their small screens. Duh?
Phone bans at concerts have become common practice for acts who are sick of looking out at a sea of glowing phones. “Put that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs posted on a sign outside one of their shows in New York City.
She & Him took this approach at a show in Toronto:
While these bans have been applauded on social media and are largely respected at music venues, a few determined vidiots tend to slip in at each show. Prince posted a set of “Purple Rules” that included no photography or cell phones, but rogue Instagrammers still managed to sneak videos. When The Eagles played to 11,500 fans in Michigan in 2014, the venue used ushers with flashlights to enforce their phone-free policy.
Added security is disruptive in itself and can’t police every concertgoer’s phone use inside the show. While people are increasingly aware that filming concerts is annoying, not everyone can be expected to exercise good manners.
“Until social norms catch up to new technology, there’s going to be a period of time where we have to set up the structure we want,” said Graham Dugoni, founder and CEO of “Yondr,” a company behind lightweight cases that lock smartphones inside. Some concert spaces around San Francisco started using the cases last year, and Yondr is expanding to venues in other regions. Yondr explains how the case works on its website: “As people enter the venue, our staff will place their phones in Yondr cases.” Voluntary handcuffs.
“Once they enter the phone-free zone, the cases will lock. While all customers will maintain possession of their phones, they are now free to enjoy the experience without distraction. If at any point they need to use their phones, they can step outside of the Yondr phone-free zone to unlock it.” Enforced civility.
Those who feel they can’t put away their phone for the length of a show may manage to evade the system, but it’s an unpopular decision.
“I’ve seen people pull their phones out, whether they smuggled them in in their underwear or what have you,” Dugoni said. “What I saw happen was that people around them instantly shunned them and were making fun of them.”
There’s also an app for fans who want to film the show but understand their behavior is annoying. A free iOS camera app “Kimd” allows users to take photos and videos with the phone’s screen dimmed and camera flash disabled.
64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. 10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have any other form of high-speed internet access at home beyond their phones’ data plans, some of which are unbelievably expensive as users buy enough bandwidth to watch movies. Using a broader measure of the access options available to them, 15% of Americans own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of ways to get online other than their cell phone.
Certain groups of Americans rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels, in particular:
Even as a substantial minority of Americans, especially younger people, indicate that their phone plays a central role in their ability to access digital services and online content, for many users this access is often intermittent due to a combination of financial stresses and technical constraints. For example, I have repeatedly received calls from Derek King asking for help in paying his cell phone bill—otherwise he would be completely cut off from employment and housing opportunities. How can I say anything but “Yes?”
An article released in the last few days describes how 47% of young smartphone owners use their phone to avoid interacting with the people around them. Called “phubbing” (or phone snubbing), the behavior is is said to be a real epidemic in the US. It is specifically defined as “the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.” This behavior occurs with young people roughly three times as much as with older smartphone owners, and is said to lead to anger, hurt, and jealousy. A growing number of young people can only interact with others when mediated by the new technology.
Manhattan-based clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona doesn’t seem to think things will be getting better any time real soon. The behavior, he says, “has become commonplace and (is) often a serious problem for many.”
75° and Clear
PS: Max seems to be fully recovered from his rattlesnake bite. The swelling on his muzzle and neck is totally gone, and he is once again exploring the desert as before. I’d have called your smartphone with the news, but I don’t have your number on speed dial.
The Hindu prohibition against killing and eating beef finally makes sense to me.
In my post, “Going Dodo,” I reported three suggestions that researcher Anthony Barnosky made for how people can forestall the environmental destruction that is behind the mass extinction of life now underway. Unfortunately, the third suggestion—eat less meat—seemed to be the least important because of its place within the list.
Quite the contrary, this is probably the most important thing you can do to save life on this planet.
A couple nights ago, I watched the documentary film, Cowspiracy, which tells the story that virtually all environmental groups are too cowardly to tell you: that animal agriculture is the single greatest cause of environmental destruction and degradation. Perhaps these organizations are cowed in the US (you like that pun?) by the ranching/meat-processing lobby’s demonstrated willingness to sue you if you appear on Oprah (yes, I know it’s gone) and say anything bad about meat, even if true.
Thirteen states (Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas) have passed food libel laws, also known as food disparagement laws, to establish lower standard for civil liability and allow for punitive damages and attorney’s fees for plaintiffs alone, regardless of the case’s outcome.
Interesting enough, the plaintiffs in two of the most notable such lawsuits did not prevail.
In 1998, television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and one of her guests, Howard Lyman, were sued in the so-called “Amarillo Texas beef trial,” for a 1996 episode of her show in which the two made disparaging comments about beef in relation to the mad cow scare. The jury found that the statements by Winfrey and Lyman did not constitute libel against the cattlemen. However, the lawsuit consumed copious amounts of time and money and Winfrey no longer speaks publicly on the issue (going so far as to decline to make videotapes of the original interview available to journalists).
A long-running legal case in Britain is an example of the application of food libel principles to existing law. McDonald’s Restaurants versus Morris & Steel (also known as the “McLibel case”) was a lawsuit filed by McDonald’s Corporation against environmental activists Helen Steel and David Morris over a pamphlet critical of the company. The original case lasted ten years, making it the longest-running court action in English history. Although McDonald’s won two hearings of the case, the partial nature of the victory, the David-vs-Goliath nature of the case, and the drawn-out litigation embarrassed the company. McDonald’s announced that it did not plan to collect the £40,000 that it was awarded by the courts. Since then, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the trial violated Articles 6 (right to a fair trial) because the defendants had been refused legal aid and had only been represented by volunteer lawyers, and Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the Convention on Human Rights, again because the defendants had been refused legal aid, and were awarded a judgment of £57,000 against the British government.
What suppression by intimidation (by-threat-of-lawsuit) has failed to bring about, has been achieved by reduction of the argument against beef to one big fart joke. The resulting ridicule has made a very sizable and serious problem to virtually disappear.
Cattle flatulence is said to contribute 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 13% for all transportation exhaust. Emissions from the transportation sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation and are expected to increase 20% by 2040. Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Methane, a component of cow farts, is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20-year time frame. Nitrous oxide, another component of cow farts, has 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and stays in the atmosphere for 150 years. Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide.
US methane emissions from livestock and natural gas are nearly equal, or about 150 billion gallons of each per day. If we could get anyone to take cow farts seriously, reducing methane emissions would create tangible benefits almost immediately.
But cow farts are only part of the problem.
If you visit the website for Cowspiracy, you will be able to see that water consumption, land use, animal waste, ocean stress, rainforest destruction, wildlife destruction, and human economy are, with greenhouse emissions, critical components in the whole picture. The website is periodically updated, and contains links to the research sources for most of the film’s facts. Some high points:
• Animal agriculture water consumption ranges from 34-76 trillion gallons annually, or 55% of the water consumed in the US. Only 5% of the water consumed in the US is by private homes.
• Worldwide, animal Agriculture is responsible for 20%-33% of all freshwater consumption today.
• Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US. Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.
• 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef.
• 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
• Almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1 lb of cheese.
• Livestock or livestock feed covers 45% of the earth’s total land, or a third of the earth’s ice-free land.
• Nearly half of the contiguous US is devoted to animal agriculture.
• With the whole of the US aggregated, 2-5 acres of land are used per cow.
• Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans.
• 1/3 of the planet is desertified, with livestock as the leading driver.
• Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
• Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US (this doesn’t include the animals raised outside of USDA jurisdiction or in backyards, or the billions of fish raised in aquaculture settings in the US).
• A farm with 2,500 dairy cows produces the same amount of waste as a city of 411,000 people.
• 130 times more animal waste than human waste is produced in the US—1.4 billion tons from the meat industry annually—5 tons of animal waste per person in the US.
• In the U.S. livestock produce 116,000 lbs of waste per second: Dairy Cows, 120lbs of waste per day x 9 million cows; Cattle, 63lbs of waste per day, x 90 million cattle; Pigs, 14lbs. of waste per day, x 67 million pigs; Sheep/Goats. 5lbs of waste per day, x 9 million sheep/goats; Poultry, .25-1 lbs of waste per day, x 9 billion birds.
• ¾ of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.
• As many as 2.7 trillion animals—90-100 million tons of fish—are pulled from our oceans each year.
• For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species—40% (63 billion pounds) of fish caught globally every year—are discarded as by-kill.
• Scientists estimate as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels.
• 40-50 million sharks are killed each year in fishing lines and nets.
• We could see fishless oceans by 2048.
• Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.
• 1-2 acres of rainforest are cleared every second.
• 136 million rainforest acres (214,000 square miles) are cleared for animal agriculture.
• Up to 137 plant, animal and insect species are lost every day due to rainforest destruction.
• 1,100 Land activists have been killed in Brazil in the past 20 years.
• The leading causes of rainforest destruction are livestock and feedcrops.
• USDA predator killing of wild animals to protect livestock.
• Washington state killed the wedge pack of wolves.
• More wild horses and burros in government holding facilities than are free on the range.
• Ten thousand years ago, 99% of biomass (zoomass) was wild animals. Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the zoomass.
• World population has grown from 1 billion in 1812 to 7.3 billion in 2015. World Population grows by over 228,000 people every day, and is expected to reach between 8.3 and 10.9 billion by 2050.
• We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.
• Worldwide, cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion lbs of food each day; half of all grain is fed to livestock.
• Throughout the world, humans drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion lbs of food each day.
• US Americans consume 1,825 lbs of food per year, 209 lbs of it meat.
• 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.
• 1.5 acres can produce 37,000 lbs of plant-based food, while the same land van only produce 375 lbs of meat.
• A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover.
• Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 lbs of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
I have already cut back radically on my meat consumption. I think there are less than 3 lbs of meat and seafood in my refrigerator right now, plus five eggs (and I am fully-stocked for the coming week). This does not include the two quarts of heavy cream for daily use in my coffee, which would be the toughest thing for me to give up. So I won’t be a hypocrite and urge you to do what I’m not yet prepared to do.
But I know the day is coming when I will have to make the tough choice.
Groove of the Day
72° and Cloudy
There is no catastrophe so ghastly that America will reform its gun laws
Tim Kreider, The Week
May 29, 2014
I started writing this essay last week, about the next mass shooting. It hadn’t happened yet, but we all knew it was going to. We didn’t know then whether it would be in a school or a workplace, a mall or a theater or a military base, in Maryland or Idaho, Chicago or some small town we’d never heard of before, suddenly elevated to infamy. We didn’t know the killer’s name or how many people would die. But we did know some things for certain.
We knew there would be grief: genuine on the part of relatives and friends, professionally simulated by media personalities, journalists, politicians, spokespeople, and pundits. There would be anguished calls to understand how this could have happened. The question “Why?” would be posed. There would be outraged calls for gun control by liberals, and pro forma calls for better monitoring of the mentally ill by gun lobbyists. The Culture of Violence would be decried. The word tragedy would be used, and the word senseless, and, within minutes, politicize, and, after a few days, the phrase come together as a community, and the word healing. Ultimately, nothing at all would be done and we’d forget all about it again, until the next one.
I didn’t write fast enough. The next mass shooting has already happened. Over the holiday weekend, some guy went on a petulant killing spree in California, killing a half dozen people, three by stabbing and three with guns, because girls didn’t like him. A senseless tragedy that will all too soon be politicized. I personally deplore the culture of violence that leads to such acts. We cannot help, at such a time, but wonder Why. But I, like you, have faith that Santa Barbara will soon come together as a community and begin the process of healing.
Look, we’ve collectively decided, as a country, that the occasional massacre is okay with us. It’s the price we’re willing to pay for our precious Second Amendment freedoms. We’re content to forfeit the lives of a few dozen schoolkids a year as long as we get to keep our guns. The people have spoken, in a cheering civics-class example of democracy in action.
It’s hard to imagine what ghastly catastrophe could possibly change America’s minds about guns if the little bloody bookbags of Newtown did not. After that atrocity, it seemed as if we would finally enact some obvious, long-overdue half-measures. But perfectly reasonable, moderate legislation expanding background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was summarily killed in the Senate for no reason other than that a sufficient number of United States senators are owned by the NRA. It made our official position as a nation nakedly explicit: We don’t care about any number of murdered children, no matter how many, or how young. We want our guns.
I realize we are not all equally complicit in this indifference; there’s a spectrum of culpability. I don’t even bother to hold the NRA or the politicians they own accountable for the deaths they allow, any more than I blame deer ticks or herpes for doing their jobs. Gun lobbyists are just engines of greed, businesslike and efficient as HIV. Politicians will do whatever will get them re-elected. And gun owners are simply frightened; anyone who buys a handgun is, self-evidently, afraid of something. Plenty of them are decent, fun, likable, kindhearted people, but fear can make normal people behave vilely. And as an electoral bloc they’ve made the calculation that placating their own imaginary terrors is more important than the lives of what will probably, after all, be some stranger’s kids. And luckily kids don’t get to vote.
The coalition of Greed and Fear seems invincible. No appeals to reason or decency can affect either of those factions; it’s like arguing with addicts or bacilli. They will never modify their position because their position isn’t rational—it’s driven by deep feelings of impotence and fear they can’t even admit to, and funded by cemeteries full of money. If gun laws are ever going to change in this country, it’ll have to be because people like me, people who care except not quite enough, quit their bitter impotent griping and actually do something about it. We care in the way that carnivores care about the screaming in slaughterhouses or that pro-war voters care about families accidentally blown apart in Iraq. Which is to say, sorta—just not enough to change our minds or habits or do anything hard or inconvenient.
An annoying thing about living in a republic is that you can’t feel completely blameless for the ruinous state of your nation. But the happy loophole is that responsibility for decision-making is so broadly diffused across millions of your fellow citizens that you can always tell yourself that you did what you could but the Other Guys steamrolled you so it’s all their fault. My own contribution toward ending gun violence so far has been to feel sick with rage and loathing toward the NRA. Occasionally I’ll draw a mean cartoon about it. It’s easy and fun to mock gun fanatics, because they’re so selfish and scared and weak and mean. It’s also pointless, an exercise in frustration and helplessness. Seeing the NRA repeatedly defeat any gun legislation, brutally effective as the Soviets crushing an uprising, has incrementally demoralized me and given me an excuse to give up. As William Greider wrote: “powerlessness also corrupts.”
So how about let’s actually do something for once? Write your senators or congressman, your state representatives, your governor. Become a single-issue voter. I’m sorry to say it, but the most effective thing you can do is probably to send a check to a gun-control lobby group, since it should be clear by now that the only voice that matters in American governance is that of money. We need to buy up and bully some senators of our own. Why not do it right now? Because it’s too late for the victims in California, but we don’t know when the next mass shooting might happen; I haven’t seen the news yet today, so for all I know it already happened this morning. If not, it’ll happen next week, or two or six months from now. But we do know it’s going to happen. Some parents out there reading this and shaking their heads in vague sorrow are already doomed to unimaginable grief.
If we’re not going to do anything again, I’d just like to make one request: given that we’ve all agreed, if only by our passive acquiescence, not to keep this from happening, can we please quit pretending to care? Let’s just skip the histrionics this time: no pro forma shock, condolence photo ops, somber speeches, flags at half-mast, meaningless noises from liberals about legislation, meaningless counter-noises from the NRA about armed guards in elementary schools. Why bother going through the motions of soul-searching when we know very well there’s nothing to search? If we can’t be brave we might at least be honest: when we see the familiar helicopter shots of ambulances outside a school, the clusters of classmates hugging, the sobbing parents being led away, the makeshift shrines of candles and plush toys, instead of looking stricken or covering our mouths or saying “Oh my God” or “How horrible,” let’s just all look each other in the eye and say: “Shit happens.”
Tim Kreider is an essayist and cartoonist. His most recent book is We Learn Nothing (Simon & Schuster). He has contributed to The New York Times, The New Yorker‘s “Page-Turner” blog, al Jazeera, the Men’s Journal, nerve.com, The Comics Journal, The Week, and Film Quarterly. His cartoons have been collected in three books by Fantagraphics. His cartoon, “The Pain–When Will It End?” ran for twelve years in the Baltimore City Paper and other alternative weeklies, and is archived at the paincomics.com.
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