Thursday, November 30, 2006

Animal Rights vs. Entertainment

We are blessed to live in a world with so much beautiful and diverse wildlife. If you really think about the amazing array of creatures we share the planet with, it's astounding. There's itty bitty insects you can hardly see and blue whales that are larger than most NYC apartments. We've got flying critters, swimming critters, creepy-crawly name it. The problem is, that most people would never get to see these animals if it weren't for things like zoos and wild animal parks. This is a problem for me.

On one hand, there is the whole conservation issue. There are some species who now only exist in zoos. Many of the world's leading zoos, like the ones in San Diego and Washington D.C. have extensive breeding programs to try and save these animals from extinction. I would say most of the folks who work directly with the wildlife in their care do their best to provide them with a safe, engaging living environment and try to keep them stimulated and happy. I try to think of the animals in zoos as ambassadors for their kind. After all, would people really care that much about preserving habitats of animals they had never seen? When you think of saving wild tigers in Asia, you can't help but recall the captive ones you've seen at the zoo. At least no body's hunting them for their pretty skin, right?

I get all that. And I still get so sad and angry when I see them there. The elephants just kill me. When I see them standing in some dusty enclosure, swaying back and forth, I can't help but think that they aren't very happy. I used to go to a little zoo on Staten Island in NY and they had a leopard in an indoor enclosure. That poor cat paced back and forth along the glass all day long. It was heartbreaking to see. I wonder if given the chance, he would rather live free and risk getting killed by some poacher.

There was a news story this morning about one of my absolute favorite animals that just got me so mad. I practice a religion that uses animal spirit guides called totems. My animal totem is the orca Whale. To me, the orca is a symbol embodying strength, intelligence, courage, compassion, freedom and a certain playful, dark sense of humor. Yes, they are ruthless hunters and nobody likes to see that Animal Planet footage of them "playing" with their food before they eat it. Still, there is just something about them that gives me the chills.

Seeing them in those tanks at Sea World makes me cry. They are supposed to have miles and miles of ocean to roam with their clan. They are not fish to be put in a tank and made to literally jump through hoops for our entertainment. It's not right no matter how much I try to think about conservation and breeding programs and nice trainers.

An orca named Kasatka who lives at Sea World in San Diego grabbed her trainer, Ken Peters, by the foot yesterday and dragged him to the bottom of the tank during a show. I bet that was a shock to the parents and kiddies in the audience. The trainer is in "good" condition at the hospital and the big brains at Sea World are trying to figure out why she "acted out."

Hmmm...I can't imagine why a two ton mammal with feelings and thoughts of her own might act out while being forced to perform for frozen fish day after day. Gosh, what could possibly be wrong with her? Doesn't she like her cage?

The Associated press printed this today:

Kasatka and Peters were involved in a scrape in 1999, when the whale tried to bite the trainer during a show, Scarpuzzi said. Peters hopped out of the tank and was not injured. The whale also tried to bite a different trainer in 1993, Scarpuzzi said.
Peters has 16 years of experience as a trainer, including 12 years in Shamu Stadium.
Scapuzzi pointed out that the animals perform as many as eight times a day, 365 days a year, "so this, even though it can be expected because they are killer whales, it is definitely abnormal."

Two things - first, she has tried to bite this guy before. Hello!? Perhaps she's not too crazy about working with this trainer. What if he pisses her off enough for her to really injure or kill him? You know what would happen to her then, right? Second, they perform EIGHT times a DAY, 365 days a year. WTF!? I hope he means that they rotate the whales who are performing everyday. So, there are eight shows a day, but maybe each whale only goes out three or four times a day and has days off. I'm no trained marine biologist, but otherwise, that sounds a bit excessive to me. They go on to say:

"In the wild they're not dangerous to humans and there's no incidences of them attacking humans unprovoked," Balcomb said. But in captivity, "they're dangerous because they're big and sometimes they're not happy with their situation."

If there are no incidences of them attacking humans unprovoked, then I would conclude that all the attacks at Sea World are therefore provoked. I think the phrase "not happy with their situation" is a gross understatement. How about " they are bored and depressed. The ones captured in the wild are devastatingly homesick?" I'm glad we are acknowledging that these incredible animals might be less than thrilled to be living out the lives of performing monkeys, but let's call a spade a spade.

Look, I really hope the trainer is OK and recovers fully. It's not good for people to get hurt any more than animals. Still, I wish they'd just close the damn parks down, keep the whales they have in the biggest enclosures possible, try to rehabilitate the ones they can for release, and never, ever capture or breed another one again.

I'd rather get to see one orca whale in my entire life here,

than see a hundred of them every day, like this:

Friday, November 17, 2006

You Gotta Have Friends

Hello Blogosphere,

Sorry I've been away for a while. It's been a hell of a week. I am happy to report that I have survived mid-term exams and got As on my tests. I have also managed to write a rough draft of my research paper on the effects of advertising on body image. Hooray! I have another Intermediate Algebra exam on Mon. though, so we're not out of the woods yet, campers. Ah, I love school.

I don't have any huge topic to discuss, no news story to disseminate or videos to share.

I just wanted to talk about friends.

I am lucky enough to have a great little circle of friends that I know I can turn to when things get tough. I have two girl friends (no not that kind of girl friend) that I've know since junior high. There are a couple of buddies I've know since high school. There is the incredible woman I met on 9/11 that is one of my dearest friends. Talk about having some history. I can't hide much from these people and I'm glad.

I feel like I am so blessed to have these people in my life. They are my other family. I worry that I take them for granted, though. It's so easy to get used to someone always being there. It happens in every relationship, romantic or otherwise. You just get accustomed to folks being around and we maybe forget to say thank you.

So...thank you.

I've also "met" some of you other bloggers through e-mails etc. and may I say, you are very cool folk. I wish I could get us all together for brunch or something. As soon as I work out the bugs on my transporter device, I'm havin' y'all over. Tofu scramble and Morningstar Farms sausage patties for all!

That's all I really wanted to say. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Remember to give your friends a hug or send them a card or something. Everyone loves getting cards.

Oh, and here is a gratuitous cute and cuddly pic of a big dog and little kittens.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I am grinning from ear to ear this morning. This is the best day politically speaking in a very very long time. We did it, folks. We took back the House of Representatives. We are two incredibly close elections away from taking back the Senate. And the best thing about all of this is Nancy Pelosi, the first ever female speaker of the house. This is a big deal. This is wonderful.

This is a little scary.

I mean, the democrats have a lot of promises to keep. They have a lot to prove and only two years to prove it. That's kind of a tall order. Not to mention they still have a conservative, right wing, constitution stomping, pro-life zealot in the White House. Ugh. Stay the course indeed.

Still, I think this might be the beginning of the end of a long nightmare that started in Florida back in 2000. Maybe we're starting to recover from the fear mongering of the post 9/11 agenda and the backlash that rose up after the Clinton administration. Damn people, can't we all just get along?

In other terrific, amazing, wonderful news, the South Dakota abortion ban was voted down yesterday! I 'whoooped' out loud when I heard that last night and then I honestly felt this amazing sense of relief kind of wash over me. I just sat on my couch and pondered the implications of it. This means that they won't be able to push the issue in front of our new, highly conservative Supreme Court any time in the very near future. The nine highest judges will be hearing another case, I believe this week, about abortion rights, but at least they won't have the power to overturn Roe v. Wade anytime soon. That is the kind of scary, Orwellian crap that keeps me up nights. And I can't even get pregnant anymore.

So, to re-cap:

1. Democrats take the House!

2. Nancy Pelosi is our new Speaker!!

3. South Dakota voted down the abortion ban!!!

And now for the not-so-great stuff.

There were two ballot initiatives here in California that got voted down due mostly to the amazing amounts of money that the big tobacco and oil companies were willing to spend to defeat them. Ah, democracy in action. Come to find out that California is the largest domestic market for Phillip Morris. That company spent about $100 million to defeat proposition 86. Prop. 86 would have added another tax to cigarettes and put the money towards health care and other public service programs. Then, Chevron et al. spent another $102 million to defeat prop. 87 which would have taxed oil production in CA and provided incentives for cleaner, alternative fuels. The fact is they could afford more tv and radio commercials. I probably saw five of the negative commercials to every one of the positive ones in the last month. TV ad time is expensive stuff. How can we compete with the vast coffers of Chevron and Phillip Morris?

By being persistent, loud, and relentless, that's how. This was just one setback and it wasn't wasted effort. These issues are out there now and in the public conscience. The cool, progressive people in this state and others just have to keep bringing these ballot initiatives to the voters. Eventually they will get it. I honestly believe that enough concerned people can overthrow the wealthy minority in big business. It just takes a little time and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

UPDATE - It looks like Democrat, Jon Tester just took Montana. The Senate is now tied!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Time!

"It was we the people, not we the white male citizens; but we the whole people who formed the union." - Susan B. Anthony

Click to enlarge

Ok, folks. This is it. It's November the 7th, 2006. You know what this means, don't you?

Of course you do. It means that you have until the polls close this evening to get your tails down to your local polling place and vote. Don't know where your local polling station is? Not sure where to go? These people can tell you.

And ladies especially, you have no excuses here as far as I'm concerned. It wasn't all that long ago that we weren't allowed to vote. Your great grandma would be spinning in her grave if she found out that the rights that she may have marched and picketed for, the rights that some women went to jail for, are not being exercised today. Back in 1920 we managed to get the men to drop the weenie check at the voting booth and let a person with a uterus cast a ballot. Don't throw that away.

Not to mention that female candidates are poised to take over a lot of seats in Congress today. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

Besides, if you don't go vote today, you are not allowed to complain about anything the government does to you for at least the next two years. That's my own personal rule and I will enforce it. (ah-hem)

You might even get a little sticker that says "I Voted" too. Won't that be nice?

Now get out there and tell Congress what you think of them! Oh, and for those of you who think that your one little vote doesn't really matter, I have three words for you....Florida and Ohio.