Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tainted beef for schoolchildren and other living things

I have been alarmed and enraged by the story of the slaughterhouse in Chino, California where possibly sick cows have entered the food chain to end up on the lunch tables of schoolchildren across the U.S.A. My own county public schools have suspended using the beef shipped here from this Westland/Hallmark Meat Company. So the story hits very close to home.

The terrible videos of slaughterhouse employees torturing evidently sick or enfeebled cattle hit the news while we were vacationing and on the road, and I haven't watched them; don't want to and won't. Don't need to watch them to get the point. I am sufficiently sickened that anyone would treat animals like that, without having to see it myself.

But what is worse: how could anyone willfully send possibly sick or infected animals into the nation's food supply? What kind of people would be so inhumanly ruthless as to endanger children, unsuspecting consumers, their own company, and their own livelihoods?

Click on the ABC News link and take a good look at this man:

Daniel Ugarte Navarro was taken into custody Saturday at his Pomona home on a warrant issued the day before, Chino police spokeswoman Michelle Vanderlinden said. He was released Sunday on $7,500 bail.

Navarro, 49, of Pomona was charged with five felony counts of animal abuse and three misdemeanor counts of illegal movement of a non-ambulatory animal, San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Debbie Ploghaus said.

Navarro, who had worked as a pen manager at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., could face up to 5 years and 8 months in prison, if convicted, she said.

There is no photo of the other man charged, as he's eluded arrest and is now a fugitive:

Luis Sanchez, 32, of Chino, who worked under Navarro, was charged with three misdemeanor counts and remained at large, Ploghaus said.

Both men were fired after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover video showing crippled and sick animals at the slaughterhouse being shoved with forklifts.

Everyone who participated in, encouraged, condoned, or winked at these practices, at Westland/Hallmark or at other slaughterhouses, should be prosecuted and exposed to the fullest extent of the law.

The true danger here, as I understand it, is that "downer" cows wallow in feces on the slaughterhouse floor and are then processed, conveying salmonella or E. Coli into the meat to sicken the people who eat it. (So far, thankfully, no one seems to have been sickened with these infections from Westland/Hallmark meat.)

But what's worse is that if and when the "downer" cows are down due to Mad Cow Disease, they may infect the humans who consume them with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This is a fatal, incurable, degenerative neurological disease with a long incubation period. Heating or thoroughly cooking the tainted meat is not enough to protect anyone who eats it in cases of Mad Cow.

Oddly, most people, it seems, are at present not thinking of that risk. As usual, I am an outlyer (and a worrier).

I pray this nasty news story is only a case of inhumane treatment of poor animals and flagrant violations of FDA regulations for clean and safe food processing, as most people seem to be taking it. I pray no one ever has cause to think back and remember Daniel Ugarte Navarro and Luis Sanchez as the Typhoid Marys of 2008 who infected a generation of Americans with degenerative, fatal brain disease.

And I pray that no matter how willfully ignorant and nonchalant consumers want to be, that all other food processors, FDA and other inspectors, and each and every one of their employees personally hears and understands the wakeup call about breaking rules and playing fast and loose with the nation's food supply.

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I fear for my country

Three thought-provoking essays to read today:

Ann Coulter at her best: here she has written a sobering essay on why Reagan could never get elected President under the current detestable McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws: "How to Keep Reagan Out of Office." This is no joke:

Reagan loved giving speeches and taking questions from voters. The one part of campaigning Reagan loathed was raising money. Thanks to our campaign-finance laws, fundraising is the single most important job of a political candidate today.

This is why you will cast your eyes about the nation in vain for another Reagan sitting in any governor's mansion or U.S. Senate seat. Pro-lifers like to ask, "How many Einsteins have we lost to abortion?" I ask: How many Reagans have we lost to campaign-finance reform? ...

What a bizarre coincidence that a few years after the most draconian campaign-finance laws were imposed via McCain-Feingold, our two front-runners happen to be the media's picks! It's uncanny -- almost as if by design! (Can I stop now, or do you people get sarcasm?)

By prohibiting speech by anyone else, the campaign-finance laws have vastly magnified the power of the media -- which, by the way, are wholly exempt from speech restrictions under campaign-finance laws. The New York Times doesn't have to buy ad time to promote a politician; it just has to call McCain a "maverick" 1 billion times a year....

Meanwhile, Texas Rainmaker quotes Gary Hubbell who says it is "angry white men" who will determine the next Presidential election. His description (except for the part about strip clubs) fits the men in my own family:

There is one group no one has recognized, and it is the group that will decide the election: the Angry White Man. The Angry White Man comes from all economic backgrounds, from dirt-poor to filthy rich. He represents all geographic areas in America, from urban sophisticate to rural redneck, deep South to mountain West, left Coast to Eastern Seaboard.

His common traits are that he isn’t looking for anything from anyone — just the promise to be able to make his own way on a level playing field. In many cases, he is an independent businessman and employs several people. He pays more than his share of taxes and works hard.

The victimhood syndrome buzzwords — “disenfranchised,” “marginalized” and “voiceless” — don’t resonate with him. “Press ‘one’ for English” is a curse-word to him. He’s used to picking up the tab, whether it’s the company Christmas party, three sets of braces, three college educations or a beautiful wedding....

My father (who died over 15 years ago, and was a sweetie) once described himself to me as an "angry old man." As Texas Rainmaker says, this has nothing to do with hating people or being a racist. My father claimed that as an "angry white man" he was by that time old enough, seasoned enough, and smart enough to have paid his dues and earned his reasons for being angry about politics, and that it was the "angry old men" who should be determining elections and running things, since they understood so much better than the stereotypical "angry young men" who did all the loudmouth rhetorical stuff without knowing what they were talking about.

Funny thing is, I feel pretty much like an "angry white man" myself these days, though I admit I can't weld anything or change my own oil. But unlike Texas Rainmaker, I have grown so cynical these past few years (since the two Clinton administrations) that I no longer am certain that such natural American sages throughout the country's heartland and on the peripheries constitute a majority to determine Presidential elections anymore. I am afraid the majority in this country is now held by ignorant sheep led by the entertainment-news media delivering the few sound bytes they chance to uncritically hear. I hope I'm wrong about that.

Finally (via Texas Rainmaker's essay), Ari Kaufmann offers a look at "America's Three Worst Presidents." Sure he's prejudiced and has his own slant on things, but the cases he makes are worth pondering. As is the link to Dennis Prager's "Socialism Makes People Worse" at the end.

And now, since nothing else much I can do today will make any difference in the way the country's going, I will shake off whatever despondency such dismal reading has given me, and make the best of another grand day in the real "people's paradise" that is America.


Back from the swamp

Over Presidents Day weekend the family and I took a little road trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. Who knew alligators "hibernated"? With their eyes open? Moving slowly around to lie in the sun, beside turtles and other reptiles? Fortunately we missed water moccasin mating season by about three weeks. I was glad I didn't have to see that.

Seeing cypress trees and mirror lakes was fine, though.

Above is the view we saw at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Pretty. And when we hiked to the end of the boardwalk trail at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and climbed to the top of the five-story tower overlooking the great swamp, we felt suspended among the trees in a wild cocoon of swaying Gandalf beards.

Spanish moss is so weird. Only after my daughter collected handfuls of it, wore it on her head, and stored it in the car among our luggage did we hear that it harbors "redbugs" (chiggers).

So much for nature. Glad to be back in my rut in my hermetic, artificial environment, after a nice little walkabout. Put 1,000 miles on the Odyssey. Just a warm-up shakedown cruise for our upcoming Spring Break.

I do love a road trip.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blogging takes a back seat

My big New Year's resolution for 2008 (usually I don't even make any such resolutions) was to clean up our home office, the electronic computerized "brain center" in the room over the garage where my kids and I each have a computer and some creative workspace and a LOT of supplies, books, and "stuff." So I began this self-imposed task in early January and am still making my way around the room. Cleaning out individual files from the jammed and disorganized file cabinets has turned out to be the slowest part, but the fab new heavy-duty shredder my husband bought us is a fun toy that speeds things along. It's surprising how much of the "stuff" I've kept for years doesn't seem worth keeping anymore. And so much more information is available now on the internet that paper printouts and copies of many sorts of things need no longer be maintained at home. I am finally seeing the first evidence of the long-touted "computer revolution" moving us toward the "paperless office."

I have also had to start cleaning out the basement at the same time, so I have somewhere to put the stuff I'm kicking out of the office, like boxes of files and backup computer components. So this is spring cleaning with a vengeance--I am not just vacuuming and dusting, but I am also sorting, organizing, labeling, simplifying, divesting, shredding, and donating.

How, for example, did we ever come to acquire four children's carseats? No matter; they're all going; we need none now. Piles of my technical books from a career gladly abandoned when my son was born 17 years ago are going to the local library's book sale. I treasured them once; I loved what I did, and they represent past achievements and pleasures. But now they are outdated and I will never need them again. But I am keeping the portable baby crib and the high chair though--they won't become outdated, and I may be a Grandma someday.

What a funny material lifestyle we've lived, as revealed by our flotsam and keepsakes. What a lot of money in total we spent on things we or the kids wanted or needed once, and now we don't. And most poignantly, where did those last hard-lived 20 years go? How did my kids get to be so big and leave babyhood behind, distilled down into a box of darling little clothes? I may cry over that someday, but in 2008 I am trying not to get sentimental over things. The shows on the home and garden TV channels have taught me techniques for being ruthless: Pull everything out, down to the floorboards; make three piles: throw away, give away, sell. Put back the absolute minimal of whatever's left, in a better organized, more spare, more meaningful arrangement. And life's not over yet, not by a long shot. There's still a present and a future to look forward to, lived in a better organized, less dusty, condition.

Keep it simple. Clear the decks for action. It's not about "stuff."

It's heady and freeing. It's a turning point in my life.

So because I am engaged elsewhere for the time being, blogging may be light.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Recalibrating where we stand

With Fred Thompson out of the race, I cast my vote in the SuperTuesday primary for Mitt Romney not enthusiastically, but in hopes--hopes! not my favorite way to make a decision or cast a vote!--he would prove to be 'the lesser of all evils.' I do think he is the least cynically and calculatingly political, and the most honest, honorable, and upright person in the ring. (Not that that necessarily makes for a good President, alas.)

So as you can imagine, I was distinctly disappointed to see John McCain's leap ahead toward winning the Republican Presidential nomination, just as I was dismayed to see that enough people are still voting for Huckabee to give him the lead in the South.

I'll say it again: Rev. Huckabee is a fine and entertaining preacher and most probably an admirable Christian and a good person in general, even if he is a little squirrely about playing the political games. I would much rather see him acting passionately by the Good Book in a private capacity than endowed with a governmental role, as he seems to blur the distinctions of the two in ways that I'm betting would repel our Founding Fathers as much as they repel his detractors (including me).

In fact, I would love to see John Edwards and Mike Huckabee team up and start a really wow private, Christian charitable endeavor to whip some persistent societal flaw like "hunger" or "poverty." With their unique talents and money, they could appear to be so much more effective (and have so much more fun and garner so much more admiration) outside the constraints and bureaucracies of government than they would have in trying to force an entire nation and economy of individuals (which they don't understand) under their (misguided) thumbs. But I don't think either of them really believes people should be left to make their own choices. I think both Huckabee and Edwards entered politics for the power rush of forcing their "salvation" (their "mission") on people whether it was wanted or not.

And of John McCain--everyone who listens to talk radio is aware of how and why conservatives rightfully question his recent voting record and his right to claim leadership of the entire Republican Party.

After this primary election, I had to remind myself that for 30-some years I have been voting Libertarian almost as often as Republican precisely because the Republican Party as a whole and the majority of people representing it and voting for it have never and will never perfectly reflect the majority of my views anyway. My views have made me an outsider in politics for most of my life, so the present situation is nothing new to me. I have no party allegiance, but I usually vote Republican when it is imperative to defeat a Democrat (speaking of the worser of two evils), or when a Republican candidate, like Ronald Reagan, clearly understands the principles of the free market, personal liberty, a strong defense, and the desirability of low taxes and minimal government. Such people earn and deserve my vote and my support. Such people among Republicans, alas, are in the minority.

Now, having cast my primary vote, it's out of my hands until November. The question for me now becomes, if John McCain is the Republican nominee, as now seems inevitable, do I vote for him in November or not? Is he enough in agreement with my own principles and philosophies that I can support him? Is voting for him to defeat the Democratic candidate enough reason to vote for him? Does it depend on who else will be running (as an independent or a Libertarian)?

Michelle Malkin today sums up a lot of my feelings and advises people like me to "get fired up." She is right: just voting for a Presidential candidate is a very small part of fighting to bring conservative/libertarian ideas into the mainstream of American thought and politics. If we ever begin to think all we have to do is vote for one perfect candidate and then sit back and let him/her do it all for us, we need to be slapped.

We have made a lot of progress in bringing conservative/libertarian ideas into the cultural and political forefront since I first voted for Ed Clark for President in 1980. Now look at all the conservative/libertarian think tanks, papers and books, bloggers, disparate televised news and debate, and talk radio choices--look at the fruits of the work of people like Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Robert Poole, Ronald Reagan, and so many countless more people who have had a huge impact on the level and substance of debate in our country about what are essentially libertarian ideas and ideals, often embraced by the Republicans (and sometimes, even by the Democrats). I am so encouraged by this, and I know, hope, and will do all I can to ensure that the debate of real substance will continue to rage on. And that includes within the Republican party, if need be. I see this as all to the good of the country, if not the party.

Meanwhile, how to deal with John McCain, whose leadership against free speech (McCain-Feingold) and for amnesty for illegal aliens (McCain-Kennedy) and whose laxness on open borders and evident ignorance about economics not only scares me but angers me?

I am not going to let my feelings stupidly interfere with my decision-making processes. Choosing for whom to cast a vote is serious business, best done with cool and fair reasoning and balance. I have months ahead of me in which to make the decision. In the meantime, I will not fall into making rash or personal statements against any of the candidates, which will do neither me nor them any credit or good. I hope my fellow citizens will choose to take a similarly rational and civil high road while we debate all the merits and demerits.

If you want a Reaganism, here’s one: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”

That is excellent advice from the Gipper.

Some say that now John McCain must and will meet with conservatives (at CPAC and elsewhere) who do not agree with him, and must reach out to make the case to them why they should give him their support. I not only agree with this, but I will add: this is an opportunity for conservatives to make their case to John McCain. Not by bashing him for what he's done, but by respectful discussion and persuasion.

"John, now that we're talking, tell us honestly, why did you think restricting political free speech before an election was a good idea, and why do you still think so now, since you have never repudiated McCain-Feingold? What were you thinking? Instead of that law to reform campaigning, wouldn't mandating internet-driven transparency in campaign financing be a better and more moral and Constitutional tactic than restricting political speech?"

Now that John McCain must meet with and cultivate the support of conservatives, we conservatives will have our chance to be respectfully heard (if we are respectfully civil), and perhaps we may respectfully teach.

Is the Old Soldier too old to learn and change? Are we too loud and mean and rude to persuade and spread light? Let's hope not. I have always believed it was the conservatives and libertarians (as starkly contrasted to the Left) who respected every individual and who honored the individual conscience, opting for persuasion, not force, not mob pressure or clan politics, not passionate emotionalism, not slanted propaganda.

So let's prove it.

And read this: "Conservative Sense and Sensability" by William J. Bennett & Seth Leibsohn (via Powerline's "Time for a Reality Check"). These arguments make sense to me, much as I sometimes want to hold on to my righteous anger about John McCain's past record. Sense, not emotion, is the important thing in decision-making. And Republicans tearing at other Republicans and Americans screaming at other Americans help none of us in what should be a civil debate.

Let the conservatives and libertarians who think they have some answers show some leadership in walking the walk and talking the talk in this area as well.

UPDATE: Continuing civil and reasoned discourse, as always, from VDH.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Vote for a Democrat to take away your choices

That's change I do believe in. Now it's garnishing wages....Powerline points out the obvious in "Forcing Young People into the System" (my bold). Maybe my friends who don't see the connection between the Democrat candidates and socialism may start to understand:

The least-acknowledged fact in the present debate over health care is that many millions of Americans have no good reason to buy health insurance. This is especially true of single young people, above all single men. They rarely become seriously ill, and they know that if they are unlucky enough to be in an accident or contract a serious illness, they will be treated anyway. So, quite properly, they see no reason to pay for health insurance or--the same thing--place a high value on health insurance as an employment benefit.

Pizza Hut learned this a few years ago when it pioneered a program that made health insurance available to its part-time workers at remarkably advantageous rates. To the company's surprise, few of its part-time employees--fewer than ten percent, as I recall--signed up for the plan. Even at subsidized rates, the vast majority of young, single employees had no interest in spending money on health insurance.

Thus, the crocodile tears that are shed over "the uninsured" are by no means entirely genuine. One of the basic purposes of just about anyone's "health care plan" is to find a way to force those millions of young, single people to pay for the health care required by their elders.

Hillary Clinton confronted this issue today on ABC's This Week, and made news with her willingness to garnish wages to force Americans into unwilling participation in her health care system...

Of course, acknowledging that a great many Americans "refuse to buy" health insurance makes a mockery of the Democrats' constant attempts to equate a lack of health insurance with a lack of health care.

The need to force participation by people for whom health insurance is a bad investment is not unique to Hillary Clinton's plan. Any system that tries to achieve universal health insurance will require compulsion....

He points out that Republican Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care plan had a similar enforced arm-twisting of people unwilling to purchase their own health insurance.

In my opinion, not only should the government get out of the business of supplying and/or compelling its necessarily inferior and more costly health care, health insurance, retirement savings funds, and education to people--it should get out of the business of garnishing wages to collect taxes as well. Who knows what innovative, flexible, and more productive and efficient alternatives have already been crowded out of the market by the Federal government regulation/compulsion elephant in the room?

If you think the teenagers of my son's generation don't see this ridiculous ripoff coming down on them as they enter the workforce, you're mistaken. Conservative student associations in the schools are pointing these facts of life out to them in this contentious election year.

Democrats = taking away your choices. Republicans = ??? Do they really represent anything any better any more, my friends?

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