Posts Tagged With: California

UNDER THE RADAR

Life in Las Vegas is highly indicative of how people prioritize their major concerns. Indicative of the psychology of how people tend to focus on matters of little temporary consequence, while failing to address events that can have huge impacts on their very existences in the long run. For example, the local rag that passes for a newspaper in Las Vegas has been running front-page headline stories for over a week, about how a nearby cattle rancher has defied the federal government by letting his cattle graze on government-owned land. Which is okay as long as the rancher is willing to pay the grazing fees owed to the government for allowing his cattle to trespass. Which the rancher and his rather extensive family has refused to do for over 10 years so that he now owes the government over $1 million. This, in turn, led to the government attempting to round up the rancher’s cattle and repossess them, so to speak. Not a very smart move, since repossessing cows is not quite as simple as repossessing furniture.

In any event, the story made national headlines, prompting a horde of government haters calling themselves militiamen, armed to the teeth, to rush to the aid of the cattle rancher from supposedly every state of the union, including Alaska. They came for an armed confrontation with those nasty feds who were trying to take everyone’s rights away. Never mind that the rancher was under a court order to pay the all those grazing fees going back 10 years. It suddenly became the patriotic thing to do, i.e. defying the tyrannical federal government. Sort of like not paying your income taxes because everyone knows what a despised agency IRS is. The feds finally came to their senses and realized that this ensuing confrontation, which could have led to loss of life, was just not worth it. Even though they were legally justified in their actions. So the feds stood down, released the rounded up cattle back to the rancher, and left the scene. The entire kerfuffle was supposedly over. Except that every right-wing whacko radio talk show host, as well as Fox News, lionized the scofflaw rancher for defying the federal government and getting away with it. Including our local paper who, as I’ve said, is still running with the story although the confrontation in now long over.

After all, why examine real and entrenched problems that Las Vegas faces when you can sensationalize meaningless drivel like the cattle story. For example, the Las Vegas economy is still one of the worst in the country, with the unemployment rate being well above the national average. The LV public school system is continually, year-after-year, rated in the bottom worst 5 among the 50 states. Now it’s true that good chunk of the LV population is comprised of seniors who have retired here, and whose kids have long been well past public school age. But there are also a lot of young families living here who are employed in the hotel/casino or construction industries, and who have a lot at stake in the quality of the LV public education system. And lastly, there is the most intractable problem of all; the severity of the on-going drought in LV which has led to plunging water reserves for 2 million people living in the LV valley.

While this morning’s local newspaper was still carrying on about the cattle rancher, it took the Los Angles Times to publish a front page story about how critical the water shortage is here in Las Vegas. As the Times put it, Lake Mead from whence LV obtains 90% of its water supply, has shrunk to its lowest level in generations. “The reservoir…is ebbing as though a plug had been pulled from a bathtub drain,” as the Times put it. Readers of this blog know that I’ve written many times about the criticality of the LV water situation. Las Vegas is one of the driest places on this planet, getting less than 4 inches of rain in a good year. It has been in a prolonged 15 year drought, with no end in sight. As I’ve said, it gets its water from Lake Mead, which in turn, gets its water from the Colorado River, which runs from Northern Nevada all the way to Mexico. Only now, it should more properly be called the Colorado Streamlet, since the river is also drying up. Seems that the Colorado water level is heavily dependent on the snow accumulations in the northern Nevada mountains. The melting snow in the Spring is what replenishes the river every year. Only snow accumulations have also been decreasing each year, thereby adversely affecting the river’s flow.

By the way, central and southern California has also been caught up in this prolonged drought. This area produces a prodigious amount of the nation’s fruit and vegetables, as well as meat from cattle ranches. California farmers and ranchers are already having a very tough time combatting the drought, so it may be more than just the Southwest that will be devastated by this lack of water. Maybe it’s time to start being concerned about real rather than phony issues.

So, 2 million people have decided to settle in LV, one of the driest places on Earth, with little concern about whether there will be enough water to go around. This doesn’t include the millions of tourists that pour in here every year, expecting that when they turn their showers on every morning in their $500 plus per night hotel rooms, water will actually come out. Soon, the summer will be here, with daytime temperatures in the 110-115 degree range, which will further dry out Lake Mead. The city’s water authority knows how critical the water situation is, and has already spent a bundle trying to build lower intake pipes running from Lake Mead to LV. The fear is that by next year, the water level in Lake Mead will have dropped below where the current intake pipes suck it in like a giant straw. But it’s a slow and grueling, and very costly project, and it’s questionable whether the new straw will be ready on time. If it’s not, won’t we have fun then.

I often have said that the only benefit I saw to getting old is that I don’t have to have colonoscopies anymore. But maybe there’s an additional benefit in that I don’t have to be around when LV residents, and tourists in their overpriced hotel rooms, turn on the facets one morning and nothing comes out.

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FAILURES OF THE HUMAN CONDITION

I’ve written before about how badly we mistreat animals on this planet. That while humans should protectors and benefactors in their behavior toward animals, often just the opposite is true. How, especially, the large animals, such as elephants, rhinos, hippos, and apes, as well as the large cats such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc. are rapidly decreasing in population due to man’s greed; and how we may be among the last generations privileged to have these animals populate the planet during our lifetimes. And how the evolution of mankind is still so rudimentary, that most of us still consume dead animal flesh as part of our daily sustenance.

But in this piece I want to focus on the mistreatment of animals in this country. Actually the mistreatment of one particular animal, the chicken. While those that supposedly know say that the chicken is every bit as social, inquisitive, intelligent and human-friendly as dogs and cats, chickens are probably the most abused animal on the face of the Earth. The reason: chickens are used for food instead of pets. So while many pet owners lavish affection and attention on their dogs and cats, the chicken is treated as a commodity, and its short life span is filled with nothing but pain and misery. Attention alert: the following may be too graphic for some readers.

Most of us consume chicken meat or eggs every week, or often on a daily basis. In the U.S., 7 billion chickens are slaughtered every year for their flesh, while 450 million hens are used for laying eggs. Americans consume almost a quarter billion  of these eggs, annually. And almost all chickens spend their short lives in rigid confinement and filth until the day they are mercifully put out of their misery. A baby chick on a factory farm will never be allowed contact with, or to be raised by his or her parents. It will never have the opportunity to feel the sun on her back, breathe fresh air, roost in trees, or build nests. Chickens raised for their flesh are called “broilers” by the chicken industry. They spend their entire lives in filthy sheds with thousands of other birds, where intense crowding and confinement can lead to outbreaks of disease. Part of their beaks are chopped off so that they don’t peck away at each other out of frustration and pain. The crowding is so brutal, that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on each other. They are bred to grow up so quickly and so fat, that their legs and organs often can’t keep pace. As such, many suffer heart attacks, organ failure, and crippling leg deformities. Many become so crippled by their own weight gain, that they die because they can’t reach the water nozzles. If they do survive to 6-7 weeks old, they are then crammed into cages and shipped off to the nearest slaughterhouse. And then sold in supermarkets as another commodity in our capitalist system.

Chickens exploited for their eggs are called “laying hens” by the food industry. They are forced into cages so narrow that they’re unable to spread their wings. After their bodies are exhausted and their production drops, they are also shipped of to the slaughterhouse. But by this time their bodies are so bruised and battered that they can only be used for chicken soup or cat and dog food. I could go on-and-on with more bloody and horror details, but you should be getting the picture by now. So what got me to writing at this time about the misery and cruelty inflicted on these poor animals? Well, it seems that there’s a pretty interesting case wending its way through our court system regarding the way we mistreat chickens.

California, in an effort to prescribe some degree of humane treatment toward chickens, passed a law not too long ago, that requires larger cages and more room for laying hens. Right now, laying hens are crammed into cages about the size of a file cabinet drawer. As I said, there’s no room for them to spread their wings. The new California statute requires that the cage size for these hens be enlarged to be about as big as the flat-bed section on a flat-bed Ford. This is estimated to raise the price of eggs by about 20%. Since California imports millions of eggs from other states each year, it didn’t want to put its own egg farmers at an economic disadvantage. So part of the statute requires that egg farmers in other states that export their eggs to California, be required to have the same enlarged cage space for their laying hens. And the other states are non-too happy about incurring the additional cost of enlarging their hen’s cages. After all, who ever said that humane treatment of humans or animals was ever part of our capitalistic society.

Thus, the Attorney-General of Missouri, with several other states likely to follow, is suing California over this legislative requirement. The case is built around Missouri’s argument that California has no constitutional authority to prescribe economic or business practices allowed in other states. From a legal point of view, Missouri does appear to have a valid constitutional case. If this wends its way up to the Supreme Court, as expected, the conservative majority on that court might very well strike down the California statute. Then we’re back to square one. Of course, from a humane point of view, the Missouri case stinks to high heaven.

A while back, I wrote a piece about “Capitalisms Casualties,” which described the grief and misfortune a capitalistic system of economics can and has wrecked on certain individuals, past and present. In that piece, I focused primarily on the harm such a system has inflicted on humans. But as we see, great damage is also experienced by defenseless animals in our midst. Is anyone willing to take up their cause? So the next time you’re putting some salt and pepper on your scrambled eggs, or devouring that tasty chicken breast for dinner, you might want to give some consideration to the poor animals that have known nothing but suffering in their short lifetimes.

 

 

 

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