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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gorilla sales skyrocket after latest gorilla attack.

Bad gorilla

OK, this sarcastic humor comes from The Onion... but really, how are we going to stop these gorilla attacks?

Good gorilla

Obvious answer: The only way to prevent gorilla attacks is to have a gorilla in every home.

Q: How many NRA spokesman do you need to change a light bulb?
A: More guns."

Actually, I am pro: second amendment but anti: lack of common sense. In the USA, we almost have a  one person/one gun ratio and we always will have... perhaps forever. But gimme a break. If one of the NRA slogans is "Guns don't kill people. People kill people," then shouldn't we do something about paying attention to the people who buy guns?

One estimate is that as many as 40 percent of all legal gun purchases are made without a background check. A much lower number, say some advocates, is 23 percent. Doesn't really matter which figure is used, either rounded up or rounded down. Fact is, a lot of guns are purchased (or inherited or received as a gift, etc.) without verification of a legal buyer/shooter status.

According to Handdgun Control Inc., an acknowledged anti gun group, a total of 205 people were killed by handguns last year in Japan, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden and West Germany. In the United States, same time frame, 10,728 were killed by handguns.

Dispute the figures if you choose, but LOTS MORE were killed in the USA by every count.

And if only the bad or crazy kill most of the people, then do statistics need to prove this is not acceptable... or is it ok because that is such a small number compared to the whole. But what if it were just one... and that one was yours?

Reminds me of the old starfish story:

Two men were walking on the beach, naturally littered with washed-on-the-shore starfish. Every few steps, one of the men would stop, pick up a starfish and throw it back ito the sea. After this had happened about half-dozen times, the other man chided him. 

"Why are you doing that? There are thousands of starfish on the beach. You can't really make a difference."

First man flipped the starfish he was holding back into the ocean. "I can to that one."

Sadly, we lead in school shootings too, which is a poor school category to boast leadership.

So how about background checks for everyone who buys, receives as a gift or inherits a legal lethal weapon? This, I say without addressing any other gun issue... and there are others.

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I wish mental health care was as easy to get as, say, a gun.

PS: This is the 4th time in almost 400 blog posts that I have used this Starfish Story. It is a story I/we should live by. Everything starts with one.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Should we grant animals peoplehood? Surprise! We already have.

Cartoon by Peter Steiner from The New Yorker  in 1993 
Oh sure, it may not be official yet but it is, de facto, happening. And, funny thing, it is more serious than ever.

Biologically, of course, animals are not humans. Still, that doesn’t alter the debate that animals should be considered “people” in the eyes of the law. Buildings and municipalities are often referred to as 'people' in courtroom legalese and accorded that status in lawsuits.

The animal status issue goes back many years in history. In 1386, a pig was tried by jury and put to death for killing a child. The sow was arrested and imprisoned in the same cell as human criminals. During the pig's trial, witnesses were called, evidence was weighed, and a verdict handed down: guilty of murder.

On execution day, the pig was paraded through town wearing a man's waistcoat and white shirt to symbolize the equality of animals and men in the court's eyes. It's unknown if this was a common practice, but either way, the outfit only served to make the scene all the more dreadful when the execution began.

While most trials dealt with crimes against man, sometimes animals were the target of human cruelty as well. But even then they were not always viewed as innocent victims. In cases where men had committed "the unnatural deed... " with an animal, the poor creature was considered compliant, and therefore charged, convicted, and executed along with the human that had assaulted it.

A later case featured character witnesses who came forward to say they had known the defendant for many years and had always found her to be virtuous and well-behaved. Of course they were talking about the donkey, who was acquitted and set free. No one came forward to testify for the accused so he burned at the stake. (Thanks Mental Floss for this info.)

There are many similar stories, some even more bizarre. In Tennessee about 100 years ago, Mary, the elephant was tried and convicted for the killing of her handler who had treated her cruelly. She was sentenced to be hung... and she was... twice, when the first crane used broke. There is a photo that is far too pitiful to use.

Animals, especially pets, have lately been seen as having rights as well. Today, all 50 states have felony anticruelty laws that impose fines up to $125,000 and 10 years in prison. A federal law after Hurricane Katrina requires rescue agencies save pets as well as people. In the early 1900s, dogs and cats were deemed worthless and could be stolen or killed without repercussion. A framed photo of that pet, if stolen, was a greater crime than if the pet in the photo had been taken.

In dispute cases involving animals some judges have assigned legal representation to dogs, cats, dolphins, chimps and other creatures to uphold their rights.

"Personhood" status for pets goes further as we accept there are no 'dumb' animals and that animals cannot be treated as 'things' or 'property' at our whim. Some animals are smarter than us in some ways. Chimps have been proven to consistently outperform humans in some common game-theory exercises.

A Los Angeles man was awarded $39,000 in a veterinarian malpractice verdict for the death of his Labrador mix. In Colorado, there was a $65,000 award for a dog let loose that was killed by a car. That was far above the dog's $299 cost but still paled in perceived value, anguish, loss and suffering to its owners.

It is then, not surprising that the Veterinary Medical Association is wary and has warned that 'personhood' for pets could flood the courts, drive vets out of business and ultimately harm our pets by making veterinary services prohibitively expensive. But anyone who has a pet will tell you that there is a closeness to an animal that loves unquestionably and with feeling than can never be taken casually. Take just a moment to look at this six-second clip and tell me you are unmoved.

This brings question to how far can/should we go. Do chickens, cows and sheep have rights to avoid being bred for consumption? If you are a purist, vegetarian or vegan, I know your answer. But for the masses, the answer is that all living creatures should be accorded the maximum right to dignity, even as food sources. Temple Grandin found her autistic senses keenly in-tune with animals and she dramatically changed our thinking and industry practices on that.

A point has been made that this "personhood" issue is a perceived parallel to the fight for women's rights as it progressed because the core value is fair consideration, in kind, to every living creature. You know, that's not a bad way to think about a lot of things.

That belief certainly has many, champions. Few though have had broader impact than Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader whose profound spirituality and belief in justice continues to inspire the world years after his death.  He led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

One of his quotes fits in nicely here:
"The greatness of a nation is judged by the way its animals are treated.


Monday, June 2, 2014

What can I buy my grandchild for her birthday? Has to be something she will love that is tons of fun, educational and of lasting value. Oh, I know...

Of course, there are many gifts a lucky grand daughter would love... but this one is educational, tasty and cute as the dickens. When I saw it on the shelf, I knew I found the one thing that she can take with her to college when she grows up. It's the Princess Pooper... and as she says, "I poop candy!" What a delightful ice-breaker.

That's good enough for me.

The Collectable Princess Pooper Penelope (that's her real name) comes with poop (candy) included! And as the box says "Wind her up and watch her go." All this in the nicest molded plastic you can imagine with an almost unbreakable plastic wind-up stem. What could be better?

In fact, finding Princess Pooper Penelope was my lucky day because this is just one darling toy of a whole line of collectables. There is Lucky O'Pooper, Pirate Pooper, Robot Pooper,  Monster Pooper,  Sport Pooper,  Pet Pooper, Zoo Pooper, Holiday Pooper and, just in time for the mid-term elections, Political Pooper. It's the whole darned Pooper family*. (This is real, honest.)

What's it cost, you are asking? Would you believe only $19.95 plus shipping and handling (with rubber examining gloves)? Of course you would. But no, not $19.95, not even $15.95 or $9.95. If you act today, Princess Pooper is yours for only $3.95, poop included! Years from now, someone will pay a fortune for these imaginative colorful plastic Poopers. Get the whole set, wind 'em up and watch 'em go!

PS: Rumor has it that The Queen Mother has just purchased a Princess Pooper Penelope for Prince George and Prince William and Kate just love it. When word gets out, these things will fly off the shelf!

*Endorsed by the Bureau of Questionable Taste (BQT).