The chick thing

June 27, 2014

On Facebook, I keep encountering outrage about the fate of poor male baby chicks. The ladies really don’t like it that they’re ground alive, but when asked for alternatives, they never present one. The last time this happened, I got unfriended. So I thought I’d gather all my information in one place, so that I can just link to it. If I’m going to piss people off, I might as well be efficient about it.

First, a disclaimer: we keep chickens. When I was growing up, the Mennonites across from my grandparents had an egg factory. If we wanted to play with them, we had to help them do chores, mostly picking up eggs. And I was distressed by all those chickens in cages, A major reason I raise chickens is so that I can eat eggs without contributing to that. (Note that there are humane arguments to be made for cage culture too, involving sanitation and predation.) So obviously it’s not the case that I don’t give a shit. And we get chicks from the hatchery, and baby chicks are SO CUTE!!!! So I’m not obvious to the emotional impulse either.

So why are baby chicks being ground alive? Because they have to die. Why do they have to die? Because they’re an economic liability.What?? How can that be?

Commercial chicken farming is a bifurcated enterprise. There are two breeds of birds used, one for eggs, one for meat. The meat bird is the Cornish Cross. This is a hybrid of Cornish and Plymouth Rock chickens , with other genetics now introduced as well. (The “Cornish game hens” sold in supermarkets are simply immature Cornish Cross broilers.) These birds are very efficient, with a feed conversion ration of 1.91 pounds of feed per pound of live weight (it was 4.7 in 1925). This efficiency can itself be construed as a form of cruelty, because broiler birds grow faster than their bones can support. That’s a discussion for another day. What we need to know about these birds, for this discussion, is that males and females are both efficient (males more so), and both are raised to slaughter weight.

The egg bird is the White Leghorn.  These lay an average of 280 eggs per year. Since it takes an egg about 30 hours to complete its trip down the oviduct, this is pretty much full capacity, about as good as it gets. And this is the side of the chicken bifurcation that leads to problems. Cocks don’t lay eggs. Nor are they necessary for egg production, any more than you ladies need a man in your life in order to have a period.  So the excess cockerels are raised for meat, right?

Uh, no. Leghorns are a light breed. If males are raised for meat, it takes twice as long as a Cornish Cross, much more feed, and the product is a tough scrawny bird that nobody wants to buy.  So they get killed.

Do they have to be killed? It depends on the meaning of “have to”.  It’s possible to grow dual purpose breeds, with acceptable body weight and laying capacity. You’ll get tougher meat and fewer eggs, and both will cost more. But people do that. I do. Most back years growers do. It’s popular among organic producers. If your conscience is worth your money, you’ll buy from them.  But the poor can’t afford a conscience.

So in our efficient industrial poultry system, cockerels have to die. Even at dual-breed hatcheries, this is a problem, even though pullets (girls) cost more. You can often get cockerels cheap in bulk. But nobody wants Leghorn boys. So the question is: how are they to die? The industry standard currently is maceration, i.e., grinding alive.  Now, I want you to think the unthinkable: imagine yourself dropped into a group of close-together high-speed blades. You may feel something unpleasant on impact. After that, between the shredding of your brain and of all nerve pathways leading to it, there’s nowhere for pain to go. Yes, I know, that’s gross. Imagine the alternatives: suffocation , having your neck broken, electrocution. Can you really say that any of these is more humane than the Guillotine of Forty Blades?

Meat is suffering. If you don’t want to be part of that, I fully understand, as long as you give me the same respect.  I’ll disagree with you, because a carnivore’s short gut is the tradeoff evolution has made for our big brains.  But it’s your life and body.

Oh, and the thing that inspired this? This campaign, which implies that the eggs used in Hellman’s have a different cruelty profile than those used in other mayonnaise, or other eggs. I’d love to look at the stock buys of the people behind this.


Another quiet unfriending

June 12, 2014

I knew that was going to happen. When a flock of hens discusses poor lil’ chickies being tossed into a grinder, and some evil heartless man explains to them why that has to happen, and argues that the method under discussion might be the least bad option, the evil heartless man must be made to go away, lest the page owner lose face. Arguing is no use, as it just means accepting EHM’s premise that life has a value. And in my experience, even fewer women than men can carry on a clean intellectual argument; they’ll go to emotion, ad hominem, red herrings and the rest of the weasel games, in a heartbeat. My wife is at least honest about this: “If they don’t accept my argument, my next argument is ‘Fuck you!” So it had to be. And silently of course, because men and rape culture and confrontation.

The irony is that I’m the guy raising chickens because I hate the thought of caged hens. I saw that at a young age, and didn’t like it. I can make an anti-cruelty case for caged hens (I’ve seen what happens when dogs are part of the free range), but I’m a libertarian; I’d rather be free in a dangerous world than safely caged.

I rather wish I didn’t have such an addiction to the truth. When I see see people wringing their hands over something they know sod all about, I reflexively put them some knowledge, as politely as I can. And if there’s anything that we Americans are pig ignorant about, it’s agriculture. If there’s anything I’ve learned on Black Water Farm, it’s how little I know… and knowledge of my own ignorance puts me miles ahead of most. Truth exists. I always knew that. Back in my pagan days, I would insist that there were moral absolutes, and the response was generally, “How Christian of you!” It was not meant as a compliment.

There really needs to be a setting on Facebook where you can block yourself from responding to certain friends. You could still do it, if you changed that setting back, but it would be a pain.  Oh well, there are more mezzos on the mezzo tree.

This isn’t “smoking in the boy’s room”

June 6, 2014

Today’s text is this description of charming play on the school bus.

I‘m not going to dwell on the humorous aspects of this case, though the female under discussion will live in in(ternet)famy under the sobriquet “Teen LaQueefa”.  (Regrettably, her name has been redacted.). But I’m going to start by observing that she was written up for elbowing the young man in the testicles, not for public indecency. Now, in my younger days of bus riding, using my testicles as a punching bag was a near daily occurrence.  And in my later days, it would have been inconceivable that people would have sex on a school bus.  Not that people weren’t having sex elsewhere (so I’ve been told), but they weren’t having it in public. And had the inconceivable happened, the perps would have found themselves in Juvie (or worse) forthwith… which would have been a mercy given that the girl would have been addressed as “Teen LaQueefa” when she was 80 years old.

I think that most of us at least sense that Ultimate PDA is mala in se. The question is: why?  And this is the place at which rational explanations of morality break down. The agreed-upon societal standard for sexual activity is that if it’s mutually agreed upon and doesn’t involve hiding an HIV status or breaking promises to others, it’s fine. So there’s nothing WRONG with boinking on the bus. It might be RUDE,  in precisely the same senses that spitting on the floor or playing music loudly is. But everyone is rude; so what?

We aren’t animals, or appliances. Sex is sacred; it’s as close as we can come in a physical sense to being God.  But when the sacred doesn’t exist in your world, that doesn’t mean anything. You’re just a cat. And if the bus driver treated you like a cat and sprayed you down with a Super Soaker, he’s the one who’d lose his job for assault.

The liturgy according to Forrest Gump

January 24, 2014

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was thinking this morning (always a dangerous thing) and I realized that the Catholic Church was like a box of chocolates. Here are all these graces and teachings, something for everyone. And they are all covered in chocolate, which is the liturgy, and is tasty all by itself.

Now, some people don’t like certain chocolates. Creams seem to be the big culprit. That’s fine, leave the creams for me; I love them.  And there are people who might not choose creams, but find them OK because they’re covered in chocolate.  They won’t spit them out or anything; they’ll shrug and say, “Better luck next time”. But other people have to know. Some manufacturers have a little candy missal on the boxtop: the lemon creams are here, the caramels there. Catechesis is always good. Other folks want to crack the chocolates open, stick their finger in there and see. This degrades the experience for all concerned. But the chocolates still taste good, even if they’re ugly and germy. You can do that when it’s just your box; notsomuch when you’re sharing it with others.

Now, it seems to me that when you deliturgize the liturgy, when you remove all the elements of mystery, it’s like removing the chocolate from the box of chocolates. Yes, you can see exactly what the centers are.  You can take some, and leave the rest alone.  Maybe everyone will leave those alone. And you’ll never experience a really good cream, that would change your opinion of creams, because “creams are ucky” and you don’t take them  And in that depression over there are a group of loose nuts, who aren’t bound together by chocolate anymore. More importantly, it is by definition not a box of chocolates anymore, it’s a box of mixed candies. That could be a good thing, but it’s not the same thing. The chocolate, which unified all these disparate flavors and made palatable the ones we weren’t so fond of, is gone.

Music, rape, and Boujemaa Razgui

January 3, 2014

Just about every musician I know has posted on Facebook about the Boujemaa Razgui story.  Now Customs has issued a statement and doubled down on their disaster, instead of throwing the officers involved under the bus. The gifted expatriate sackbut player and maker (and unapologetic socialist) Nathaniel Wood asked, “Who do these people think they are? ::weeps::” I’d been productive and good all day, so I fell into the temptation of trollery and replied, “They think they are protecting the citizens of the United States from agricultural disasters. Do you understand now why I am a minarchist?” The problem with this was that several people took it as a challenge to their belief in the benevolent state (ok, maybe it was!) and started blaming RAZGUI for his misfortune because, you know, a guy who travels all over and has presumably checked his instruments with luggage before should have known that someday some Customs guys would get a hardon, and should have made them carry-ons…where he would have had to deal with Customs anyway, argue with them, and get turned away from his home (he’s a Canadian citizen, orsiginally from Morocco, currently living in NYC).

Well, all this seemed to be a bit much like blaming the victim, so I asked one fellow his opinion of the classic case of Blaming the Victim. “Does a woman also have a responsibility to protect her body from rape?”  Nate yelped foul, the guy I was addressing said “I have absolutely no idea how you can even think to draw that comparison …….” and we were off to the races. My reply:

How can I draw that comparison? I’m a musician. My instruments are part of my identity, an extension of my body. It’s as intimate as the connection with one’s genitals, and as such, the psychological violation is as bad. The physical violation is WORSE, because the body heals, but instruments don’t replace themselves (and when replaced, are never exact replacements). Now, if I were to tell a woman to be sensible about what she exposes to whom, I’d be accused of “blaming the victim”. Isn’t that what you’ve just done with Razgui? (That’s my explanation, Nate, and you’ll have to decide if it applies, or is an extension of tastelessness.)

All of my musician friends are wringing hands about this, and rightly so. It’s horrible beyond belief. Yet hundreds of people are violated by the State each day, and have their lives ruined. They aren’t One of Us, though, so they don’t matter, as long as the Greater Good is served. So I appreciate the honesty of the folks who say, “It’s his fault.” But then you don’t get to be all emotional about it. If a moral crime was committed (and I think there was), we have an obligation to decide why and how, and how to stop it from happening again. That may well involve doing less. If we give average people the power to destroy without the responsibility to restitute, we’re asking for incidents like this.

Now to be fair to Nate, he very clearly saw that, on physics, biology and the law, this was clearly a case of Customs overreach. He didn’t address my original point, but since I’d offended him, I didn’t feel like pursuing the point on his Facebook page. Here, however, I’m under no such limitations.

I’d like to fill in the rape analogy. The instruments were self-made, somewhat as a woman’s body is. And the act of playing music with others can be unbearably intimate. You’re trusting the others not to mess up, as they trust you. You are constantly adapting to others’ musical ideas, as they adapt to yours. The New Musicology doubtless has much to say about this. And I wonder what the Goddess of New Musicology, Susan McClary, would say… but I don’t necessarily wonder enough to ask her when the semester begins (I’m controversial on Facebook so I don’t have to be at work.)

Was this violation necessary?  Nobody argues that rape is necessary. I can only think of one context where one could argue that, and since humanity is in no danger of dying out, it’s not applicable to reality, so why bother? And not many argue that agricultural import controls are UNnecessary. One could make the case that, in this small world, it would be best to get it over with, let everything go everywhere and duke it out for their own ecological niche. I’m not making that case, because we really don’t know enough to foresee all the dangers. And we like to pick the winners. But certainly government has done almost as much harm as good with invasive species, introducing such problems as kudzu, and the bane of my existence, multiflora rose.

This is a place where the Big Government folks need to read the Founding Fathers, and apply their principles to their own policy positions. If you’re going to give some high school grads power to make or break somebody’s livelihood (as they do with the vote), you need to hedge that power about with fearsome restrictions. You need rules under which they can do no irreparable harm. Agricultural materials? Sure, quarantine them until we’re sure they’re fine, especially if they’re obviously made into something. The opinion of the bottom rung worker has to be appealable, all the way up, and if they act on their own to make appeal impossible, they get the boot. Because oboe reeds are agricultural. Stradivarius violins are agricultural.

How we got here, per David Carlin

November 20, 2013

I had to wait for an oil change this morning, so I got aways into David Carlin’s Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.  Of what I read, the most striking chapters were 5-7, which don’t deal with the Church at all, but were the most lucid explanation I have ever seen for how we got to the ’60s, and to our present received truths. Carlin takes sort of a Great Books approach to the debacle, books which held ideas which escaped from academia and entered society in a debased form. Those books and movements are:

1. Cultural relativism ( Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture ; Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa.)

2. Ethical emotivism (A. J. Ayers / Charles Stephenson); antinomianism

3. Suspicion of authority (The Authoritarian Personality, via Erich Fromm, and the Milgram experiment)

I was shocked to realize that most of the intellectual baggage that I’d carried for most of my life, and which many whom I know still carry, had an identifiable pedigree. I might have cracked Mead once. I know that Ayers was discussed in my Intro to Philosophy class in 1977 or 78, but between senioritis and the silliness of Ayers’ proposition, it really hadn’t stuck with me.  Of course I knew of the Milgram experiment, but had never realized the fallacy of equivocation at the heart of it.  Yet the grandchildren of all these works had a profound influence on me (and even the children; Wilhelm Reich’s work can be seen as #3 seasoned with #1).

The point of cultural relativism was that if a moral code worked for a given society, it was just as successful as any other moral code, and that there was no universal set of morals. Indeed, as a young neo-pagan, I believed that other societies’ moral codes might be superior, if they allowed for sufficient amounts of free sex.  And cultural relativism plays into the odd notion that refusing to pay for a strange  American woman’s birth control is a War on Women, but the fate of women in Islamic states is not really a moral issue, because it works for them (at least, if they aren’t women).

In the Ayers/Stephenson formulation, all moral statements are merely statements of feelings, with a persuasive element thrown in. Ultimately, this means “x is right because I want it to be.” Kant said that autonomous morality must be guided/generated by reason, but that implies a reasoning populace, which is not the populace we have.  I was a thoroughgoing Kantian, both as a Wiccan and (insofar as I was one) an Objectivist, but came to the realization that autonomous morality through reason would always be subverted and betrayed by autonomous morality through emotion.  One major problem with this movement is that it makes all discussion of “rights” fundamentally useless. “Rights” are a moral formulation; if one’s rights are determined by one’s morality, and one’s morality by one’s desires, then “I have a right to this” is indistinguishable from “I want this.”, which means that anyone can pull any ‘right” out of their ass  and think it carries as much weight as any other right.

In the theory of the authoritarian personality, there is no model of proper authority. Thus, good is seen as being as far away from the authoritarian mindset as possible: instead of ethnocentrism, forced multiculturalism; for sexual repression, loss of sexual control; for religious dogma, irreligion. Anti-Semitism is also an aspect of the authoritarian personality; ironic, since it is currently most virulent in the Left, which must then be authoritarian.  This was the element that struck me most forcefully. I had never understood the virulent hatred of the Right by the Left, and the portrayal of all non-Leftists as fascists. Under this paradigm, it became quite logical: they literally think we are crazy, mentally disturbed.

There is in Carlin an assumption that it takes 25-30 years for an idea to percolate into common acceptance.  These works all came out in the 30s and 40s.  He mentions Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind (1953) and the founding of National Review (1955) which (though he doesn’t mention this)  flowered into the election of Ronald Reagan by 1980.  Following the pattern, Atlas Shrugged would have set up the establishment of the Libertarian Party in the early 70s. The big LP “coming out” and distribution of the ideas of Rothbard can be defined as the Ed Clark campaign of 1980… which means we would see a popular acceptance of a gutter libertarianism ca. 2005-10, And so it seems to be happening. Now, what is the Big Idea of 1990 which is ready to bite us in the behind or to save us? And how can we, who seek to preserve Western Civilization, unteach the lessons of the last 50 years?

Another 70s priest lets us down

October 14, 2013

I could just puke.

In the incident report released today, an off-duty Cleveland Metroparks ranger said McGonegal offered the ranger $50 to help him “get off,” then exposed himself and masturbated, all while sitting inside his late-model Jeep SUV.

The report said McGonegal had three sex devices in his Jeep when he was arrested around 12:45 p.m. …

The report said inside the Jeep was a bottle that contained an intoxicant. During questioning after his arrest, the priest said he bought the product at a sex shop and smells the contents to get “a buzz.”

Later Friday, McGonegal told workers at the jail that he is HIV-positive, the report said.

Father was ordained in 1971. I had thought that was a little early to have been a scuminarian (scuminarians believe that if a reliquary is a place to deposit relics, then a seminary must be a place to deposit your semen), but maybe not. The post-Vatican II rot entered early and deep. But in a sense, that’s irrelevant. All of this would be grave matter for any of us laymen. It’s only worse for priests by virtue of their office. And don’t give me that crap about “If we only let them marry…”, as if married men never solicit sex, or as if men could marry other men.

Look, I know, innocent until proven guilty and all, but read the article; is there any way at all that this could be a frameup or a mistake? Even the physical evidence is a matter for scandal.  I wasn’t sure I should even comment on this; it’s not like I’ve lived a life of chastity. But when you’ve had multiple Plain Dealer articles and broadcast reports, it’s not exactly a secret. People should know there’s at least one Catholic heartsick about this.

Now we have to wonder about his church. St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the churches that Bp. Lennon had on the chopping block before the Vatican overrode him. I have to wonder whether he knew the score and decided to kill two birds with one stone (I think St. Peters was a similar situation, with a pastor who is now excommunicated). It’s a gorgeous building. But is it faithful? One has to ask. Sex is the mother of heresy, and a priest who is confused about the Church’s teaching on sexuality might be confused about other teachings.  A glimpse of their website is inconclusive. I looked at a couple of their bulletins, and Father’s remarks therein seemed pretty orthodox and even catechetical. They do have a “mission statement” with all the improper buzz words:

We are a Catholic Church in the City of Cleveland, dedicated to worship, educational excellence, and social justice. We promote ecumenism and embrace cultural diversity. We strive for family growth, neighborhood involvement, and community development. We uphold the dignity of the human person and are determined to meet the demands of the new millennium with hope for the future.

Now, I think Catholic Church mission statements are stupid. Any parish has only one mission: to get souls into Heaven. Any other goal is ancillary to that, and if it doesn’t contribute to that, it needs to go.

One can tell quite a bit from the music, but I couldn’t tell anything about the music from the site, except that you don’t have to read music to join the choir. I think that technically applies to my own parish as well (but people who can’t tend to deselect themselves; we really don’t do music that can be learned by rote.), so it’s not really a tell. Indeed, the whole website seems a bit like a coverup, a lot of “here’s what we do; come to the parish picnic!” and not a lot of “here’s what we believe.” Granted, there’s a book for that; a Catholic church shouldn’t have to put it on their website (though, interestingly, the Catechism is notable by its absence from their “links” page.) But we all know there are Catholics and catholikes, members of the Church of Jesus Christ and members of the Church of Nice. One can’t assume.

So, what next? Father is 68, old enough to draw Social Security. I think that retirement is appropriate, and possibly the most merciful thing for all concerned. Pray for the parish of St. Ignatius, and especially for Fr. McGonegal.