Another One Bites the Dust

NOTE: The post below was posted yesterday morning on my personal blog, ecocatwoman.  After sharing it with the other Front Pagers, bb, jj & Mona suggested I repost it here.  It isn’t the usual sort of post you see on Sky Dancing, so I’ll understand if it isn’t your cup of tea.  And, HT, I really did pick this title before your comment on Kat’s post last night – really!

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In 1999, when I was relatively new to the feral cat “community” and Trap/Neuter/Return I answered a call from a very nice woman who needed help trapping a litter of 8 – 10 week old feral kittens.  She had managed to trap the mother cat and her semi-grown kittens from a previous litter and get them all fixed through Orange County’s CARE program.  In 1999 I had recently become the president of CARE and we did not normally go out and do the trapping.  She was a very sweet woman and desperately worried that the homeowner’s association would call either animal control or critter control and the kittens along with the ones she had already fixed (and bonded with) would be trapped and killed.  I talked at a meeting of the homeowner’s association and convinced them to hold off on trapping, explaining that CARE worked in partnership with Orange County Animal Services to trap, alter and vaccinate cats.  My intention was to trap the kittens and return them “to the wild.”

I only managed to catch one kitten on my first attempt. She was absolutely beautiful, but completely wild. Being a novice I felt she was too old to try to tame/socialize her. So, once she was spayed and recovered, I returned her. She died within 2 days, which devastated me. I decided once I trapped the rest (actually 4 remaining littermates and 2 from the litter of another female), I would make every effort to socialize them and find homes for them, although CARE did not do adoptions. I felt I had enough contacts in the rescue community that I could easily find a group who would handle the adoptions. I was ridiculously lucky, trapping all 6 kittens at once, something I never managed to do again in the following 8 years of trapping expeditions.

After dropping the little ones off at the clinic in the morning, I saw a kitten blithely walking across a normally very busy road as I was driving home. Of course, I stopped and picked him up and took him home. He was about the same age as the kittens, but he was the friendliest kitten I had ever seen. He cuddled on my chest and purred all the way home.

Within two days of bringing the 6 kittens home, I noticed one of them (Chaz) had a beard of bubbles on his chin. I called my veterinarian and she told me to come in the next morning with all of the kittens because, at least, Chaz had calicivirus, which was/is highly contagious. No doubt they had contracted it at the animal services clinic and that is probably what caused their sister’s death. Charlise, Chaz’ sister was the only one in the 2 litters who got sick, seriously sick. However, Clark, the sweet boy I picked up off the street, got deathly ill as well, along with one of my adult cats, Catherine. All were bundled off to the veterinary clinic, where both Charlise and Catherine spent 2 weeks for treatment and force-feeding. Clark was the sickest and spent a month at the vet’s office before he began eating on his own. Whew – we had dodged a bullet. It is always dreadful to lose one of my animals, but losing kittens is the worst by far for me. As of tonight, Charlise is the last of this little family of kittens/cats.

cisco

cisco

I lost Cisco suddenly on February 16, 2008. I had taken him to my vet because the nictitating membranes (third eyelid) in both of his eyes were partially up. He had no other signs of illness. He hadn’t lost weight, he was eating, so I didn’t suspect there was anything seriously wrong. Within 2 or 3 days, he had died. The vet suspected either liver or pancreatic cancer.

Darling Clark, the kitten rescued from the 6 lane highway died, after a long wasting, undiagnosed illness, on February 25, 2010. He had grown into a Velcro cat. He would leap through the air, almost like a bird, to be in my arms. He would leap from the floor, from a countertop, the bed or the arm of a chair, flying into my arms without scratching me or digging in with his claws. Turning my back did not do any good in dissuading him from his goal, so there were many times he would end up on my back, much like a living backpack.

CHAZ

CHAZ

Chaz first developed plasma cell stomatitis, a common result of having had calicivirus in early 2008. I had most of his teeth removed in April, 2008. He was fine for awhile. By the end of 2010 it was obvious he had a problem with one of his ears. Cordelia, one of my dogs, would continuously clean Chaz’ ear, while Chaz would lie there seeming to enjoy the cleaning, grooming process. I took Chaz to my vet and she found that he had a cancerous, inoperable tumor in his ear. His health deteriorated and I had to have him euthanized on February 12, 2011.

CHARLIE & ME AT THE OFFICE

CHARLIE & ME AT THE OFFICE

As Chaz was going through his illness, his brother Charlie, another sweet, extremely affectionate boy began losing weight much like Clark He would lose weight, and then seem to recover and start putting some of the weight back on he had lost for a period, and then start losing weight again. I took him to the vet on numerous occasions, had tests run again and again to no avail.  X-rays, blood tests, nothing revealed what was causing the weight loss. I had to force feed him from time to time, as well as give him sub-cutaneous fluids to keep him hydrated. Finally, it became obvious that he wasn’t going to recover and his weight loss was decimating him. I had often brought him to work with me, and everyone on staff fell in love with him. He was happiest in someone’s arms. I let him go and had him put down on June 14th, 2011.

At that point, I had only 3 cats of the original 6 remaining. Of those one had never become tame, Chandler. Over the years, I had only managed to get a quick “pet” of him while he was eating. Generally, if I got within about 3 feet of him, he would hiss and take off. Courtney, one of Chaz’ and Charlie’s sisters who was among the three, had remained feral for the first year after joining my herd of cats. Then, surprisingly, she lay on the edge of the bed, rolled onto her back and looked up at me, as if she was asking for a belly rub. At the top of my “can’t resist list” is a kitty tummy. Regardless of the potential danger, the soft fur of a kitty tummy is totally irresistible to me. From that moment on, I could pet her and love on her and she never failed to offer me her tummy for a rub.

COURTNEY

COURTNEY

Courtney developed a snuffing noise during the time I was dealing with other seriously ill cats. I assumed it was an upper respiratory problem, so I used a vaporizer to try to clear it up. I tried a nebulizer, but neither did any good. I took her to the vet, who insisted it was, in fact, an upper respiratory illness despite my insistence that wasn’t the problem. In late 2011 she spent a week at the vet’s office, but she was still  snuffling when I took her home. I did some research on the internet, the vet did x-rays because I was certain she had a nasal tumor. I ended up taking her to the area veterinary specialists, where they did a CAT scan. Unfortunately, I was right. She had nasopharyngeal carcinoma. It was an inoperable, fatal condition. She was fine for a while, but one morning she started having seizures. I rushed her to the vet and had her euthanized. That was on January 12, 2012.

About a month or two after losing Courtney, Chandler began losing weight, much like Clark and Charlie had done. After visiting two different vets, both of whom failed to diagnose either Clark’s or Charlie’s conditions, I saw no need to go through the frustration and enormous costs just to be told either “don’t know” or “can’t treat”. Chandler continued to eat, quite a bit, being the first cat with his head in a bowl of food every night. As he continued to lose weight, I called my vet’s office to alert them that I would be dropping him off, explaining he was feral and would have to be sedated to be examined. The problem? I couldn’t catch him. After making several attempts, I gave up. Then one day, to my great surprise, he allowed me to pet him. Within a week or two, he allowed me to pick him up, and even carry him around. I took him into the vet and she postulated, due to feeling a mass in his abdominal region that he either had a kidney tumor or one in his spleen. By this time he had lost a considerable amount of weight he certainly could not withstand a major surgery.

CHANDLER

CHANDLER

I refuse to sanction surgeries to remove tumors, especially internal ones. Every time I’ve had that done to other dogs or cats, the cancer spread like wild fire throughout their bodies. I had put Cricket through 5 surgeries for mammary cancer, many years before. After the 5th surgery, the tumors returned within 2 days.

The vet suggested subcutaneous fluids daily for Chandler after giving him an antibiotic injection. He lasted 2 weeks. Although he ate a small amount yesterday (Thursday) morning before I left for work, and the fact that I knew his remaining time was very limited, I chose not to take him to the vet on Thursday to have him euthanized. I wasn’t ready to give up and he didn’t seem to be ready either. However, when I got home from work, it was obvious that it was time. He had chosen to spend the day in a carrier. When I first looked at him, lying with his head in a awkward, unnatural position, I feared he had died while I was at work. He was alive but terribly weak, so I arranged to bring him to the vet in the morning. It became obvious within the hour that he probably wouldn’t last the night. He was uncomfortable and probably in pain. I took him to the nearest emergency clinic and had him euthanized. At least, after 13 years of longing to touch him, pet him and hold him, I had the opportunity to do that for the final weeks of his life. It was a special gift he gave me in the end that I will always treasure. To hear him purr for me when I petted him and hold him was a reward that I shall always cherish.

Little, petite Charlise, stunted by her early illness, remains the last of the group of kittens saved from a shorter, more difficult life on their own. May she live many, many more years.

CHARLISE

CHARLISE


Sunday Morning Reads………An Eclectic Mix

Good Morning, All. I am pinch hitting for JJ while she and her family are visiting our nation’s capital. I haven’t traveled much, but I have been to D.C. twice. What an amazing place. This will be an eclectic mix of links and stories, covering many different categories. I hope you will find at least some of them of interest to you.

This first group is about gardening. bb had mentioned to me that she likes to work in her garden, so I figured she would enjoy these. The first is a list of ideas on how to attract butterflies to your garden.

Planting your garden with plants that attract butterflies is only one step in making your garden butterfly-friendly. Once butterflies discover your garden the females will lay eggs on plants that become food for the hatching caterpillars.

The host plant selected, and the time of year the eggs are laid, depends on the species of butterfly. Different butterflies prefer different host plants.

Bees are pollinaters, picking up pollen as they go from flower to flower to gather nectar. Obviously they are an important component for a successful garden. Besides nectar, bees also need water and this has ideas about how to make a watering hole for bees.

As the temperature rise in the garden it is important to remember the bees you’re attracting to your garden will also be searching for water. For bees, a supply of water is as important as pollen and nectar forage in the summer.

Besides the lovely green foliage of a garden, it is important to do what we can to use “green” products. Treehugger contributor Ramon Gonzalez provides a list of 10 sustainable garden products.

A garden that is kinder to the earth can be achieved through the selection of products and tools that are sustainably manufactured or given new life through recycling. It’s never been so easy to build a garden that’s green from the moment you plunge that spade into the soil.

Many commercial fertilizers used in both gardening and farming contain phosphates. Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show covered a story about Simplot, a phosphate mining company in Idaho. Naturally, it is a satirical look at the dangers of phosphate mining and the damage being done by the by-product, selenium. Greater Yellowstone Coalition is an environmental organization working to get J.R. Simplot Co. to Clean Up Its Smoky Canyon Mine Superfund Site.

The New York Times featured a story and video today about the industrial damage done to Newtown Creek since the mid-1800s, and Mitch Waxman who has chronicled its history. The waterway was declared a Super Fund site in 2010.

If Mitch Waxman is your guide, he will identify it as the derelict smokestack of Peter Van Iderstine’s fat-rendering business, which first set up shop in 1855. But he won’t stop there.
He will expound on the archaic waste-disposal operations that once flourished on the creek, conjuring scenes of putrescent horse carcasses floating in on barges from Manhattan and docks piled with manure three stories high. The narrative will extend to Cord Meyer’s bone blackers and Conrad Wissel’s night soil wharf — the gothic names of these forgotten businesses rattled off in a distinct Brooklyn accent.
At some point, he will start in on the horrors of the M. Kalbfleisch Chemical Works, eventually making his way to the sins of Standard Oil.

Moving on to some stories about activism that caught my eye. The first story comes from Truth-Out about The Heritage Foundation’s conference to re-brand the Occupy Movement. Matt Dineen interviews Jason del Grandio, the author of Rhetoric for Radicals. Here’s a snippet of what Jason has to say about his perceived purpose of the conference.

The speakers make frequent reference to capitalism, free markets and free enterprise, and often mention traditional buzzwords like individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Heritage Foundation is trying to understand the populist appeal of Occupy, and by doing so, trying to use that appeal to “win back” some of the Occupiers. Or, at the very least, to impede Occupy’s progress and win the hearts and minds of those who are still on the fence.

Brian Merchant interviews Tzeporah Berman, an environmental activist since was was 19, for Treehugger. This quote really hit home for me – you can’t un-know or un-see an injustice once your eyes, mind and heart have been opened to them.

Sometimes I wish I could open up a paper and not be immediately drawn to the story about mercury in fish or the dramatic increase in flooding in Sudan. But I can’t now.

Have you heard of Emem Okon, the Nigerian ecofeminist? I had not. She is a courageous woman, organizing other women of the Niger River Delta and taking on Chevron. The interview from Antonia Juhasz is reprinted from Ms magazine on Truth-Out.

One of the most prominent voices was Emem Okon, founder and executive director of Kebetkache Women Development & Resource Centre of Nigeria. A community organizer and women’s rights activist from the Niger Delta, Okon is leading a thriving Nigerian ecofeminist movement. She has coordinated several local women’s networks and coalitions, including Women Against Climate Change (WACC), International Network on Women and Environment, Niger Delta Women for Justice and Niger Delta Women’s Movement.

Speaking of women, the New York Times featured a story on the the Human Rights Film Festival at Lincoln Center. The review starts off with a profile of The Invisible War, which won the 2012 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

It hardly needs to be said that any armed force has the potential for internal as well as external violence. But “The Invisible War,” Kirby Dick’s incendiary documentary about the epidemic of rape within the United States military, is a shocking and infuriating indictment of widespread sexual attacks on women. Such behavior, the film argues, is tacitly condoned and routinely covered up; the victims are often blamed and their reputations destroyed.

I found other links to discussions of the film, at the military publication, Stars and Stripes along with stories about Congress denying healthcare coverage for abortions for military women who have been raped. from Mother Jones.

The Rio+20 Summit begins on Monday, June 18th. President Obama and England’s David Cameron WON’T be attending, however Hillary Clinton will be representing the U.S. BBC News has more about Rio+20 and the awful state of the world’s oceans.

The researchers assessed the various pledges made at the landmark 1992 Earth Summit and 10 years later at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Governments vowed to establish an ecologically sound network of marine reserves by 2012, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal fishing, protect critical habitat, look after the needs of local fishermen and restore depleted stocks to healthy levels by 2015.

Subsidies have not been eliminated, and illegal fishing is still a major issue in some parts of the world.

Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s On Point, interviewed Bill McKibben of 350.org on Friday’s show. McKibben’s name is probably best known for the protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline, held outside of the White House, along with his subsequent arrest for protesting. You can listen to the audio at the link above. Here’s a short introduction:

Environmental champion Bill McKibben wrote nearly a quarter century ago about what he called “the end of nature.” The untouched wild. He didn’t think he was writing about the end of the world. But the climate change path since then has been a scary one. Bad to worse.

And McKibben has gone from writerly philosopher to full-on environmentalist to activist in handcuffs. Political street fighter. He was at the heart of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Arrested at the gates of the White House.

The current campaign of McKibben and 350.org is ending fossil fuel subsidies. These companies are paid by governments in the neighborhood of 1 TRILLION DOLLARS a year to pollute our planet. 350.org is organizing a Twitterstorm for June 18th. Although I don’t have a cell phone (and refuse to get one), I plan to set up a Twitter account so that I can participate. I hope that you will go to the link and sign up to participate as well. This quote comes from Treehugger about the Twitterstorm:

If you’re itching to do some petition signing right now: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies, and check out how your representative (in the US) stands on ending subsidies: End Fossil Fuel Subsidies Scorecard

There’s also more info on the Facebook event page: Twitter Storm: #EndFossilFuelSubsidies

Since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I would end this with a trbute video to a very special Dad
from Discovery News.


Animal Matters

I thought I would share some recent stories about wildlife that crossed my path.  The first comes from NPR’s Weekend Edition.  I was running my payday weekend errands yesterday and had a “driveway moment” in the parking lot of my grocery store.  Rebecca Davis was reporting on her trip to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.  She was there to see gorillas in the wild.  I couldn’t pass up a chance to experience, vicariously of course, a visit to a group of wild gorillas.  The icing on this cake, this group had a pair of young twins.  You may not know that twins are rare for most large mammals, so this was a chance of a lifetime for the reporter and me! Listening to the quiet whispers of the reporter and guide transported me into the forest along with them.

When I decided to change my major from mathematics as an undergraduate, I chose zoology.  I had long been awestruck by the incredibly magnificent animals of Africa.  Elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, what’s not to love?  As a child, after seeing the film Born Free, I read all of the books written by Joy Adamson and her husband, George.  I dreamed of going to Africa, if for no other reason than to visit the grave of Elsa the lioness.  PBS’ Nature had an episode last year entitled Elsa’s Legacy. I have to admit that I cried, nearly uncontrollably watching this episode, mourning once again Elsa’s death. Both Joy and George met tragic ends with Joy being murdered by a former employee and George being killed by poachers.

At the same time I switched to my zoology major, something remarkable was taking place in the scientific world. Dr. Louis B. Leakey, the renowned archaeologist and anthropologist, had sent three young women into the field to study primates; Jane Goodall to study chimpanzees, Dian Fossey to study gorillas and Birute Galdikas to study orangutans. Tragically, Dian Fossey, author of Gorillas in the Mist, was murdered by poachers in 1985.

My major professor and advisor in college was Dr. Llewellyn Ehrhart. Although he was a vertebrate zoologist and mammologist, he chose to focus his field work and research on sea turtles. His mentor was the renowned turtle biologist, Dr. Archie Carr. Check out the links to find out more about Dr. Carr and the group he founded, the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the National Wildlife Refuge named for him I came across a report on leatherback turtles on Treehugger yesterday. Several species of sea turtles nest on Florida’s coasts. Each species is listed as endangered, and leatherbacks are of particular concern. I have closely followed the efforts here in Florida to protect these species, where volunteers patrol the beaches to locate nests, cover and mark them. In addition to human poachers, which are relatively rare along America’s coastlines these days, there are natural predators. Raccoons, in particular, dig into the nests for the eggs. The volunteers put wide spaced wire grates over the nests to keep the raccoons from destroying the incubating eggs. The leatherback story has some wonderful photos that accompany it.  You can see how enormous these prehistoric creatures are in comparison to humans in a couple of the photos. Sea turtles evolved during the late Jurassic period, while dinosaurs (oh, my!) were still walking the earth.

Treehugger, once again, has a video of a polar bear in a zoo in the Netherlands who used a stone to fracture the glass in the pool habitat of his enclosure. Possibly the bear was just trying to get the attention of the two zoo visitors who were standing in front of the glass. Who knows? It certainly made me wonder why those guys were even there in the first place, since they obviously weren’t interested in the magnificent animal right in front of them. I couldn’t find any other recorded instances of a polar bear using a “tool” which is what makes this incident so fascinating. I will save my opposition to zoos and marine parks for another post. I will say that many larger, well funded zoos have improved the once bare and small enclosures with larger and enriched habitats. These changes have certainly improved the lives of captive animals during their lifetime imprisonment.

This link is to a sad, but not unusual story, also from Treehugger. The story entitled Half of Republic of Congo’s Forest Elephants Killed in Past Five Years naturally caught my eye.  There are other links on the page to other stories about recent assaults on the elephant populations in Sumatra, Cameroon and the Eastern Congo.   This information from Scientific American will give you an idea of how much damage has been done to African elephants in the past 80 years.

 In 1930, there were between five and 10 million wild African elephants, plying the entire African continent in large bands. Just 60 years later, when they were added to the international list of critically endangered species, only about 600,000 were scattered across a few African countries. Today that number is likely less than 500,000.

This massive decline in African elephant populations is due to a combination of poaching for ivory and habitat loss.  With an ivory ban still in place, but might not be for much longer, and stepped up conservation efforts in many areas, some countries are seeing a slight increase in numbers of individuals.  Unfortunately not every country or areas within the countries are on board with protecting this magnificent species.  Population declines of 50% for already endangered species can spell their imminent extinction.  When the size of the gene pool is dramatically reduced, rare traits or mutations are more likely to occur and, thus, weaken the species.

A final dose of science geekiness is an interview with Dr. Sylvia Earle, featured on the American Public Media radio show, On Being. Dr. Earle has been at the forefront of ocean exploration and discovery for about 50 years. She will be 77 later this year, and Krista began the interview this way:

Sylvia Earle: That’s the joy of being a scientist and explorer. You do what little children do: you ask questions. Like who, what, why, when, where, how? (laughs). And you never stop and you never cease being surprised. It’s just impossible to be bored.

Ms. Tippett: And you’re still diving, aren’t you?

Dr. Earle: Well, yeah. I breathe. So I can dive. (laughter)

Dr. Earle is the only person who has walked on the bottom of the ocean,in a specially designed, pressurized suit, similar to the suits worn by astronauts. She is one of the leading voices on protecting the Earth’s oceans. As I listened to the interview, the child like sense of wonder and excitement in her voice was uplifting and helped me recall that same feeling within myself. Despite the fact she has witnessed the decline of species and habitat in oceans around the world, there is no despair in her voice or her message. If you do nothing else today, please listen to this delightful, informative and hopeful discussion with a truly amazing woman. I seriously doubt that the phrase I CAN’T has ever been a part of her vocabulary.

Whether it is development, a need for fuel or simply money, so many species are on the brink of extinction worldwide at the hands of humans. For me, a world without non-human animals is not a place worth living in. Our species’ need to commodify and conquer everything around us must stop. Science is how our eyes will be opened, which is why science education is so critical now more than ever. Will we learn to appreciate the wonders and marvels of the natural world surrounding us before it is too late?

I will leave you with my favorite quote, one which sums up my feelings toward our planet and all the life upon it. It’s from Henry Beston’s book The Outermost House:

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”


Wisconsin Recall Election – My Take on it

My anticipation about Tuesday’s election was high.  My information about the how, why, when and what of this recall election came from the Left side of politics.  I generally avoid the blogs and the radio and television shows of the Right.

I am pro-union because I am pro-worker.  No business can operate without employees, no business can succeed without employees.  Employees are a vital part of any business and are, all too often, dismissed or ignored when the success of owners and CEOs are applauded.  And unions give employees a voice in working conditions, employee safety, wages, health care and pensions.  Within large companies and/or corporations individual employees have relatively no chance to ensure their health and welfare, along with what they are paid.  That isn’t saying that employee versus employer is a good guy versus bad guy situation.  It is more like one person, with no weapons, facing another armed with guns, ample ammunitions, tanks, missiles and more.  Or even going into a poker game where one person is dealt a single card while the other has six cards.  It simply isn’t a level playing field.

Regardless of what news outlet you follow, there have been a wide variety of speculations, theories and hypotheses about why the election turned out as it did.  Personally, I don’t think the outcome can be narrowed down to one single reason that Walker won the election or that Barrett lost.

Walker is only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall.  The other two both lost and were recalled.  Each of the political pundits is feverishly competing to come up with the definitive explanation for this outcome.  Personally I think the bigger story is the solidification of the division between the opposing sides and the repercussions which will follow for, not only, the state of Wisconsin but the rest of the country as well.  Families and friendships have broken apart because of this battle.  For me it seems our  increasingly  contentious political system is becoming as toxic as the lead up to the Civil War and the animosity between those who supported slavery and the abolitionists.

Initially, I felt certain that the imbalance of money in the election would be the determining factor in the election (Walker is estimated to have outspent Barrett 7 to 1).  After reading some of the post election coverage, I am not so sure that the enormous amount of money spent (estimated at $60 million) really had much impact on how people voted.  In a piece at HuffPo, it was pointed out that the vote split in the recall almost matched the initial faceoff between Walker and Barrett.  Basically the people of Wisconsin voted this time the way they voted in the governor’s race in 2010.  The undecided voters only amounted to about 8%, with new voters accounting for around 13%.  To me that means that those 8% were the only ones who might have been influenced by “the money” issue.  The article goes on to say that Walker managed to turn out a higher percentage of his original supporters than did Barrett.

Joshua Holland has a similar take on Alternet called 8 Ways Right-Wingers Are Blowing Wisconsin Out of Proportion. He says the Right Wingers

claimed the outcome spelled doom for Obama this fall, marked the death of the labor movement and was a pure reflection of voters’ love for Scott Walker’s economy-crushing austerity policies.

He goes on to refute the rest of the Right Wing’s claims. Check out the post because it is worth your time.

Recall elections are few and far between in the U.S., as evidenced by my earlier point that Walker is only the third governor in our history to face a recall election.  Several sources, including the one I’ve cited above, have put forth that about a third of people polled don’t support recall elections unless the politician has done something egregious, like committing a crime.  Their political affiliation doesn’t matter.  The seriousness of the offense is the concern of to the voting public regardless of political party.  What that says to me is that most voters believe in democracy, meaning the voters have chosen and the person with the most votes, whether or not you voted for him/her, is the winner.  Shut up, bite the bullet and let the winner serve out their term.  (NOTE:  I am not saying that I believe we actually live in a democracy, but that the general public believes in democracy and that our American system is a democracy……..because that is what they have been told.  The formerly and currently disenfranchised probably have a different perspective).

Add to this that the opinion of unions, unlike in the mid 20th century, is mostly negative.  After about 50 years of chipping away at the number of American workers who belong to a union or have a union member in the family, the number of union workers has declined substantially.  Where once both union and non-union workers banded together in solidarity, it has become a mostly contentious relationship, where union workers are seen as greedy, lazy and recipients of unfair pay scales, benefits and pensions.  Big business has succeeded in demonizing the collective power of unions who were responsible for the 5 day 40 hours work week, minimum wage, paid sick time and the formation of OSHA to protect the safety of workers on their job.  For me, that is the story, not the fact that Walker successfully kept his job.  It’s the workers and employees of America  that are the losers in this race.

And then there is Jon Stewart’s take on the recall:

The Daily Show June 6, 2012

crossposted from ecocatwoman.blogspot.com


The Political Plate

A little over a week ago, I emailed bostonboomer that I wanted to do a post about Monsanto.  She was kind enough to share older posts done by Sima about Monsanto.  After reading Sima’s posts I have to admit that I was intimidated by her detailed, informative and brilliant commentaries.  Her knowledge of Monsanto’s business and political dealings, stemming from her experience as an organic farmer, is incredible.  I highly recommend going back and reading or re-reading them.  I’m going to try to bring you up to date on what has been happening since her last post.  I just hope that I can do both Sima and the subject justice.

Once I became involved in the animal rights movement in 1990, a formerly unseen world opened up to me.  It was akin to looking behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz.  Learning about how the animals we call food are raised, what they are fed and the chemicals that are put into their bodies, was disturbing to say the least.  Since that time, the major media outlets, along with independent filmmakers, have covered issues such as factory farming, the overuse of antibiotics and the rise of antibiotic resistance,  along with other issues that affect the food supply.  A good place to get started is with the film Food Inc. and its website.

Monsanto popped up on my radar around 1993 with the introduction of rBGH, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone.  Although there was an overabundance of milk on the market, this chemical was being introduced to increase the supply of milk available for consumption.  Why?  One of the reasons was to drop the price of milk.  That would be good for the consumer, right?  Well, corporations are not in the business of making their products more affordable for their customers, as we all know.  The ploy was to drive prices low enough so that family dairy farmers could not afford to stay in business, leaving the business to Monsanto’s real customers, giant dairies who would use their product(s).  With family dairy farms bankrupt, Monsanto could better control the market and prices.  From a study by the Economic Research Service/USDA.

Between 1970 and 2006, the number of farms with dairy cows fell steadily and sharply, from 648,000 operations in 1970 to 75,000 in 2006, or 88 percent (fig. 1). Total dairy cows fell from 12 million in 1970 to 9.1 million in 2006, so the average herd size rose from just 19 cows per farm in 1970 to 120 cows in 2006.1 Moreover, because milk production per cow doubled between 1970 and 2006 (from 9,751 to 19,951 pounds per year), total milk production rose, and average milk production per farm increased twelvefold.

Monsanto has since sold its posilac (rGBH) business to the Big Pharma company, Eli Lilly.  If you still believe that advertising slogan, “Milk, it does a body good”, you might want to read this.

Let me start off with yesterday’s article by Jim Hightower,  although it’s mostly about Dow Chemical, Monsanto gets some space as well.  And there are some great comments.  For more on 2, 4-D check out these links:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57423245-10391704/genetically-modified-crops-resistant-to-24-d-spur-debate-calls-for-labeling/ , and

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/2,4-DTech.pdf

Monsanto is a multi-tentacled corporation attached to all aspects of our lives.  At their facilities in Dayton, OH during WWII they were involved with the development of the first nuclear bomb.  One of their early successful inventions was Astroturf.  They have manufactured Agent Orange (the defoliant/herbicide used during the Viet Nam war), and PCBs (banned in the U.S. in 1979 but still found in the environment since PCBs don’t break down easily).  For more information, you can download the free E-book, A Small Dose of Toxicology.  In recent years, Monsanto has focused on the world food supply, whether it’s chemicals to kill weeds, like Roundup, or creating genetically modified (GM) seeds for which they hold patents.   Natural News began a July, 2010 post with this unsettling paragraph:

At a biotech industry conference in January 1999, a representative from Arthur Anderson, LLP explained how they had helped Monsanto design their strategic plan. First, his team asked Monsanto executives what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. The executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson consultants then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct.

Some of the crops grown with Monsanto’s GM seeds include corn, soy, sugar beets, alfalfa and cotton.  Monsanto also produces and sells Stevia and Aspartame.  To preserve their ownership of these patented seeds, farmers using them cannot save seeds produced from the crops they grow.  The farmers must buy new seeds each year for their annual crops.  Monsanto has sued farmers suspected of harvesting seeds along with their crops.

One of the most recent areas Monsanto wants to exploit are public lands.  In November, several groups filed a lawsuit to prevent the planting of GM crops on refuges.

The Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its director, in Federal Court.

Fish and Wildlife signed agreements allowing farmers to plant crops, including genetically modified soybeans and corn, on refuges and wetlands in eight Midwestern states, according to the complaint.

And planting on public lands isn’t just limited to U.S. lands.  World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the most respected conservation groups worldwide has ties to many multinational corporations, including Monsanto.  They are helping to promote GM crops in other countries.

On the federal tax front, Monsanto paid an average of 22% in taxes for years 2008 – 2010.  This report lists the 2008 – 2010 period detailing the profits, taxes and rates for 280 of U.S. corporations.

ALEC Exposed has a page dedicated to Monsanto, detailing much of their history and activities.  As with most multinational corporations, Monsanto is heavily invested in lobbying.  Interestingly, the years they spent the least money on lobbying were during the reign of King George II, otherwise known as GW Bush. Monsanto’s highest expenditures were in 1999, 2000 and 2008 – 2011.  Open Secrets has an overview of Monsanto’s lobbying expenditures, the lobbyists, the issues in which their lobbying efforts were focused along with the agencies and the associated bills before Congress.  Open Secrets is quite an informative site, also covering PAC contributions and campaign contributions to specific elected officials.

In our current political climate, campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures aren’t a surprise.  After all, it is how the system is fueled.  Open Secrets has a recent blog post detailing Monsanto’s activities so far this year.  The Monsanto/government connections go even deeper though.  During Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing, he worked as a counsel for Monsanto.  When a recent case involving Monsanto came before the Supreme Court, not surprisingly, Thomas did not recuse himself.   The Organic Consumers’ Union’s site, Millions Against Monsanto, has a list of both elected officials and agency appointments of former Monsanto employees from Bush Sr. to Obama.  Sadly, Bill Clinton appointed more than any other president listed.  Unfortunately, they don’t list U.S.  diplomats who also once worked for Monsanto.  What a wonderful way to help promote the products of their former employer in countries all around the world.

Wikileaks posted documents showing connections between Monsanto and U.S. Ambassadors.  Several EU countries have rejected the use of Monsanto’s GM seeds.  Fearing loss of export income, the possibility of pressuring or even retaliating against these countries were discussed in the diplomatic cables Wikileaks obtained.  You can read Sima’s post here:  http://skydancingblog.com/2010/12/28/wikileaks-and-gmogm-food-more-cables-more-fun/

Monsanto’s reach extends around the world.  GM cotton was promoted as a boon to small farmers, but the reality is different.   This story details the results in one village and the collaboration between Monsanto and The Times of India.  Stories from Africa aren’t any better.  The Gates Foundation is investing millions to promote and encourage the use of GM crops.  I find it disturbing with a number of NGOs, researchers and politicians who are working hand in hand with Monsanto and other GM companies seemingly without concerns for the possibilities of the damage to the world food supply, public health and the environment.  Alternet has posted a story about Kenya and the support from The Gates Foundation for Monsanto’s GM crops.  For another opinion on The Gates Foundation/Monsanto/Africa issue, check out this Opinion piece in the Seattle Times  written by Glenn Ashton.

The one beacon of hope has been some EU countries.  The people have loudly spoken out against GM foods.  However, the picture may not be as rosy as it has been portrayed.  Gaia Health digs deeper into the announcement in February, 2012 that both Monsanto and BASF are pulling out of Europe.

Let’s not forget about the stock market either.  Monsanto has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Marina, a bio-tech company.  I especially liked (not really!) this from the post:

Time and again, the company’s collaborations with agri-business research firms and molecular-bred hybrid technologies have proved effective. Although instances of societal resistance to new technology and poor acceptance of new products by farmers continue to raise anxiety, continuous increase in production led by technology upgradation helps balance such unease.

The personal is the political, and what is more personal than the food you eat and the food that you feed your families?  If you are interested in digging deeper, here is the documentary The World According to Monsanto

You can also get more information about the many issues and areas of concern about food at the Center for Food Safety site.  I hope I didn’t give you too much to “chew” on.