Archive for June 2009


Today the Wife acts as the executor at the closing of her mother’s home. It’s a process that began for us a few days after her mother’s death in September, when I walked into a home whose owner would never return. Calendars with days X’d off in August that suddenly stopped after she entered the hospital. Half open cartons of milk past their due date. A moldy package of strawberries. Unopened 8oz cans of soda meant for visitors like my son.

On my first visit I pulled several bags of groceries out of the fridge, and the process of removing items from the 3 bedroom 2.5 bath didn’t stop until last night. A woman who had been burdened by stuff all her adult life was finally freed of it. Nothing remained in the house that identified it as hers anymore. She could rest at last.

The 59 boxes of Armstrong flooring that the Wife’s father purchased 18 years ago to lay a dance floor in the basement – and which his wife nagged him regularly about it until his death 4 years ago – was thrown in a dumpster at the dump by his grandson. His prized scratchbuilt 80286 ended this incarnation of its existence at an electronics recycling center. I had to open it to marvel at the boards filled with IC chips and ominous looking PSU before leaving it in a pile of discarded printers, computers, and televisions.

The pantry full of canned goods that the mother-in-law regularly sorted through and rearranged was donated to a local foodbank. We hired a novice group of estate sellers to sell the contents in the house, but they overpriced everything and sold relatively little – so we were left with furniture, household goods, knicknacks of every sort, tools – things collected by two people over 57 years together. Most of what was left was modern, and there were no antiques.

We had separated out the junk and taken a little more than a ton of it to the dump, so what was left was usable items that weren’t new. Evidently poverty no longers exists in the US because we had a heck of a time giving the stuff away.

At the Goodwill that I have been donating to for years, a supervisor stopped a worker from helping me unload my SUV full of household goods. “What you got,” he asked gruffly. I pointed to the car. “Stuff I don’t need,” I said. He began pointing to things. “That’s Christmas stuff, and it ain’t Christmas,” he said. “We can’t take that.” Glassware? He wouldn’t take that either. A heavy electric drill? “That’s too old.” The more he picked over the stuff, the madder I got.

“You know in Africa I knew men who would turn tin cans into toys because their kids didn’t have anything,” I said coldly.  I received a blank stare from the supervisor. “What can’t go onto the floor right away goes into the dumpster and we get charged to haul it away.” “But this isn’t junk. The vacuum cleaner works. The christmas lights work.  The glassware isn’t chipped or broken.” He shrugged ignoring me. “Call Salvation Army; they’ll take anything,” he said.

So I did call Salvation Army. SalArmy required an itemized list given before they arrived. They would only take what was on the list. If an item wasn’t on the list, they wouldn’t take it. Nothing could be damaged or broken, and all furniture had to be on the first floor. So last week I inventoried 37 pieces that we set aside for them, and moved an entire bedroom set, TV and stand down from the second floor.

The Wife dealt with SalArmy yesterday. At first they refused to take the bureau from the bedroom set because its finish had been marred over the years by my in-laws opening and closing the drawers. And the TV? It was too old.  “People want HD flat screens,” the nicer of the two pickup men said. Wife had to turn on the charm and eventually talked them into taking everything.

While talking to the pickup men she learned that nothing is done to the donations; no repairs or cleanup. If they can’t sell it immediately, it gets thrown into a dumpster. She related her experiences in Africa where nothing went to waste. Broken things were mended; everything was reused and very little was wasted. Entire families combed the trash dumps looking for bits of metal or plastic that could be scavenged and resold. The people that she lives and works with in Africa are truly poor - unlike those who are ministered by charities here.

The charities want cash. Why exactly? We donated everything a family of 4 would need except for parishables and the house itself. The In-laws weren’t poor. The were solidly middle class, registered Republicans who donated money to dozens of charities. Yet here we were, begging these same charities to take their stuff.

This experience has made me realize that no matter how often we hear how bad the economy is and how things are the worst they’ve been since the Depression, things can’t be that bad when you have to beg charities to take away solid wood furniture, clothes that were hardly ever worn, and 32” televisions…

But the deed has now been done. 9 months of daily effort over. The house is sold and a new family takes over to bring life into a home that hasn’t seen much over the past year. It’s a solid house – a good house that will provide a home for a couple and their twenty-three month old child; the wife has even referred to it as her “dream house”.

Now it’s time for us to move on.

UPDATE: Thanks to the members of the Watcher’s Council for voting this post the number 1 council post for this week. Given the quality of writing shown by the members I am deeply humbled to receive this honor. Seriously, there is some of the finest writing on the Watcher’s Council that you’ll find anywhere – and I am proud to be a member of such an elite team. – SK

Death of a True Salesman

I’ve always had a soft spot for salespeople since my mother was in sales for most of her life. Today the term has some tawdry connotations, but a true salesman is never dishonest. If a product is no good, the true salesman can’t pitch it because he or she knows that most people expect a sales person to lie – and if a sales person gives any hint of a lie the sale is over.

Over the years I have dealt with good and bad salesman as a consumer and as a small businessman. Any small business man knows that a good sales person can make or break his business, so we are always on the lookout for good sales people whether it’s cosmetics or cars. Once I talked to a car salesman at a dealership about a car I was interested in; I didn’t buy the car but I knew the guy was talented. I contacted my boss who was interested but by the time I got back to the dealership the kid had already taken a better sales job. He would have been perfect for selling IBM mid-range machines like the AS-400 my company sold; maybe if they had snapped him up my company wouldn’t have gone out of business a year or two later.

Similarly I have dealt with absolutely awful salespeople. The only person I have ever had the honor of throwing out of my house was an Appleby windows salesman. Over the course of any hour he proved he knew little about the windows, wouldn’t address my questions about price and even went so far as insult my wife. He was so stupid and rude my wife and I were laughing at him as he drove away. We have a good story that brings a smile to our faces at the very mention of that night, but I’ll never buy Appleby windows.

I’ve seen Billy Mays on TV ads over the years and even bought oxyclean -  a product that made him famous. I learned to like him even more while watching the Discovery channel show “Pitchmen” with Anthony Sullivan – another excellent salesman. Billy was the real deal. He was the true salesman who never lied about his product and expected it to perform exactly like the person buying it did. Billy was a salesman with integrity – something that all good sales people have – and I imagine that he and my mother could have spent hours swapping stories about their experiences.

But Billy died this morning at the age of 50 so that conversation can never happen. The news is dominated by the death of Michael Jackson and while Michael was a superstar, I would much rather have chatted over a plate of canollis with Billy than met Michael. Billy was one of the good guys, and I will miss watching him.

RIP Billy.


It says a lot about a man when even his ex-wife praises him

“I knew him since he was 15, and I always knew he had it in him,” she said of Mays’ success. “He’ll live on forever because he always had the biggest heart in the world. He loved his friends and family and would do anything for them. He was a generous soul and a great father.”

Afghan Opium Crop: Buy It & Destroy It

It appears that the US is shifting it’s policy towards opium tillage in Afghanistan. Unfortunately I’m not sure how much more effective the new policy will be than the old one. Afghanistan produces 90% of the world’s opium crop worth about $3 billion annually. The heroin made from this opium is estimated to kill about 100,000 Russians, Asians and Europeans.

The Senlis Council, a European think tank, suggested buying a portion of the crop to make morphine for legal medicinal use. Why stop there? Why not buy the whole crop – turn out as much legal morphine as you want – and destroy the rest? Next year do the same thing. Rinse and repeat.

Legalization would deprive the Taliban of the $75-100 million it gets from protecting the crop. It would also encourage a dependence of the farmers and dealers on the US, thereby giving it more control over areas of the country where the Taliban has thrived. Over time that control could be used to encourage diversification of tillage – which is what the new plan is intended to do.

Knock off effects could be interesting. Taking 90% of the crop off the market could make things interesting for those in the illegal heroin business. Costs would skyrocket which would lead to higher crime by addicts and more land devoted to opium in Burma, Thailand, Laos and areas outside of the Golden Triangle.

But US soldiers would have an easier time in Afghanistan, as would the others there working to turn things around. Who knows? Maybe Afghanistan could eventually develop a thriving pharmaceutical export business.

40th Anniversary of Stonewall

If you don’t know what Stonewall is, then this story on one of the rioters is must reading. I’m impressed when the human spirit asserts itself and says “Enough.”  Stonewall was the beginning of the end for discrimination against gays, and 40 years later I’m still amazed at the guts shown by the patrons that night in New York City.

You don’t have to be gay to appreciate the courage of people like Raymond Castro.

“It wasn’t just gays,” said Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico and left in 1945. “It wasn’t just white gays.”

“You had straight people sympathetic to gays. People of the arts. You had people who had had enough (of the police). You had Latinos, you had blacks, you had whites, Chinese, you had everything. It was a melting pot. Young, old. Fems, butches.”

Gay rights are human rights. You can’t support the latter without upholding the former.

It’s a Guy Thing

The Kid has a friend over. I come home from the grocery store with 5 12 packs of soda and ask the kids to get it out of the car. They do – and load every single can of the soda in the fridge. My refrigerator looks like a soda machine and the compressor is humming away trying to cool it down.

Oh well…

The Council Has Spoken: June 26, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Wolf Howling - Obama On Iran: A Broken Moral Compass, A Distorted Perception Of Reality

Noncouncil: Christopher Badeaux / The New Ledger - Through the Looking Glass With Andrew Sullivan

Full voting here.

If ObamaCare isn’t good enough for Sasha, Malia, or Michelle, then it’s not good enough for Me.

I have to pull back from becoming a rabid Obama hater but he just makes it so f***ing difficult.

Here’s what the Hypocrite in Chief said on the All Barack Channel last night. (video, hattip)

(Neurologist Dr. Orrin) Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn’t seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he’s proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get.

The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if “it’s my family member, if it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.

This is exactly the hypocrisy that grates on me like a skipping CD. It’s also not the first time that Obama has separated the elite from the rest of us. Don’t forget killing school vouchers.
The most blatant hypocrisy involves Obama’s personal parental decisions. He chose to send his own daughters to Sidwell Friends, a private school among D.C.’s most exclusive institutions whose annual tuition runs around $30,000. If he felt so strongly that offering children an exit route would stymie the reform of public schools, then why not put his own daughters in one? Jimmy Carter did. This would not only please unions—prompting them to open up their war chest even more in the next elections—but also signal his resolve about reform. If he didn’t, that’s presumably because his daughters’ futures are too precious to be sacrificed on the altar of politics. But, evidently, the futures of other children are not.

Incidentally, among the children who will have to return to public school once this program is scrapped are two of his daughter’s schoolmates, who were using their vouchers to attend Sidwell. It’s sad that Obama’s message of hope and change doesn’t include children like them.

So far the President is getting away with it. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live under a government that controls the media and I’m starting to understand what it’s like. But I have faith that you can’t hide the truth forever.

He Didn’t Plead For New Zealand

Iranian protester begs for American intervention.

Great Depression 2

I’ve been sceptical of the current recession = Great Depression meme. However pondering  these charts might change my mind.

Iran and the Seasons of 1989

Twenty years ago I remember watching with horror the Tiananmen Square massacre unfold before my eyes in the newspapers and on CNN. Three months later I watched as one by one the nations of the Warsaw Pact bolted to freedom and the Berlin Wall crumbled. Today I am silent about Iran because I really don’t know how things are going to turn out there.

I stupidly take certain things to heart – and the freedom of oppressed peoples is one of those things. A therapist – heck even any AA sponsor – would warn me of the danger of allowing world events to affect me. As the Serenity Prayer states I must accept the things I cannot change – and there is nothing I can do to alter how the events are unfolding in Iran.

As I did then I curse the cowardice of my own leaders who today cannot distinguish between Hope and Despair in Iran, and those of 1989 who were all too quick to dine with the Butcher of Beijing. Obama today, Bush yesterday – yet they both share a sociopathic attachment to the status quo.  For Bush the tanks must have come as a relief because the Tiananmen Square demonstrations complicated his efforts to cultivate a relationship with China to tip the balance of power vis-a-vis the Soviet Union.  For Obama a less-radical Iran in possibly the mold of today’s Serbia would sidetrack his effort to cleave the Gordian Knot of the Middle East and succeed where all presidents over the last third of a century have failed. His ego and his followers demand nothing less.

The situation is fluid. No one can predict how events in Iran will play out. So I’ve avoided writing about it and tried to push it out of mind. But then the headlines crash through and I’m left yearning for the Persian people  to become free – to experience the liberty that all human beings deserve by birth. I want them to experience the heady days of the  Autumn of 1989 – not the horrifying Summer.

How will this end? I haven’t a clue but I know where my heart lies.
Neda - Iran's Angel of Freedom
With Neda.

The Council Has Spoken: June 19, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Wolf Howling - Iran 6/16 – The Fire Still Burning

Noncouncil: Michelle Malkin - Obama’s AmeriCrooks and cronies scandal

Full voting here.

The Coward in Chief

While protesters take to Iranian streets, President Obama remains silent. “It’s not productive given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling.” As Iranian young people fight for “hope” and “change” in Iran, the president who rode to power with those slogans remains uncharacteristically silent.

Similarly President Obama has done nothing to deter Kim Jong Il’s provocative acts in North Korea. “... (U)nder no circumstance are we going to allow North Korea to possess nuclear weapons,” Obama says, as North Korea prepares to detonate yet another nuclear warhead. Perhaps he hopes that North Korea will exhaust its nuclear weapons stash by testing instead of turning Seoul, Osaka or Anchorage into glass. Regardless North Korea is merely emboldened as China – it’s benefactor – laughs at Obama’s treasury secretary, confidently knowing that it can do whatever it wants foreign policy-wise because Obama needs it to subsidize his wealth transfer to his cronies. Carter had his own cronies too.  Remember Bert Lance?

Those of you younger than 30 may not recognize the pattern, but those of us over that age do. We lived through the Carter Administration, and we saw such handwringing alot as the administration systematically gutted America’s military and backstabbed its friends.

Soon after its election the Carter Administration systematically weakened the Iranian regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Palahvi over alleged human rights abuses, threatening to withhold money and military aid unless the Iranian regime implemented a series of human rights reforms. The Shah’s opponents including the Ayatollah Khomeini benefited from Carter’s meddling, finally overthrowing the regime in 1979. It was a mistake that would eventually lead to Carter’s own downfall, losing to Ronald Reagan by a landslide in Nov. 1980.

President Obama seems to be channeling the zombie-like President Jimmy Carter completely. Not only is he encouraging America’s enemies in Beijing, Moscow, Tehran and Pyongyang, as well as refusing to back “hope” and “change” movements that don’t result in unions owning factories, he is backstabbing America’s only true friend in the Middle East – Israel.

While the Jewish vote went solidly Obama’s way last November, it has not restrained him from publicly hectoring Israel at every turn. Obama may be timid in his approach to America’s enemies, touring the world apologizing for America’s alleged misdeeds, he has no problem slapping around its friends in Israel, the UK and even Canada.

Timidity in the face of one’s enemies, disrespect towards one’s friends… those are the signs of the coward. President Carter showed cowardice in the 1970s and in doing so sowed the seeds that would blossom into the 9-11 terror attacks.  History is repeating itself and America will no doubt pay a hefty price for the cowardice of and loathing this president has shown towards the world and his country.

Wake me up when the 1980’s arrive.

UPDATE: Evidently I wasn’t the only one to pick up on the 70’s meme.

I’m also struck by Obama’s fear to offend one of his constituencies over another. His refusal to face down supporters in the socially conservative African-American constituency by pushing for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act is yet another instance of Obama’s cowardice. Ditto his refusal to force the military to chuck the don’t-ask don’t-tell policy. I expected Obama to project a weak foreign policy – not a weak domestic agenda.

UPDATE2: Clearly what has happened in Iran has caught the president off guard. The Narrative that rolls up the screen of his teleprompter has him brokering some grand deal in the Middle East between the Mullahs in Iran and the Jews of Israel – not welcoming a bunch of democrats into the fold of civilized nations. Unfortunately History doesn’t follow narratives which is why Jimmy Carter – who viewed his own role in the Middle East similarly- was eventually overwhelmed by events of his term. This failure broke Carter, leaving him to trod the edges of the limelight on the world stage – gathering headlines from sympathetic journalists as he brokered agreements with regimes that evaporated almost as fast as the ink dried.

At this point I fully expect Obama to follow in his patron’s footsteps, serving one term and spending the remainder of his life trying to build the figure in history that the Narrative promised and History failed to deliver.

The Council Has Spoken: June 12, 2009

Congratulations to this week’s winners.

Council: Mere Rhetoric - The WH’s Eight-Step Plan For Detonating The US-Israel Relationship

Noncouncil: Ralph Peters - What Obama Taught Me- Wonderful Arabs, American Slavers, Wicked Jews

Full voting here.

The Mystery of Flight 447 – UPDATED

I’m thinking about the loss of Air France flight 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, and what troubles me is the apparent suddenness of the disaster.


The plane was entering a zone of weather activity and the pilot reported that the plane was experiencing turbulence as it flew into a stormy area. Stratfor notes that the plane issued automated messages over a period of 4 minutes before being lost by radar. There were no human distress calls made. Fox News gives this chronology:

The pilot sent a manual signal at 11 p.m. local time Sunday saying he was flying through an area of black, electrically charged cumulonimbus clouds that come with violent winds and lightning.

Ten minutes later, a cascade of problems began: Automatic messages indicate the autopilot had disengaged, a key computer system switched to alternative power, and controls needed to keep the plane stable had been damaged. An alarm sounded indicating the deterioration of flight systems.

Three minutes after that, more automatic messages reported the failure of systems to monitor air speed, altitude and direction. Control of the main flight computer and wing spoilers failed as well.

The last automatic message, at 11:14 p.m., signaled loss of cabin pressure and complete electrical failure — catastrophic events in a plane that was likely already plunging toward the ocean.

The plane entered service in 2005 and was serviced most recently in April.


The fact that the pilot didn’t issue a distress call lends me to believe that the plane suffered a catastrophic event that prevented the pilot or copilot from radioing for help. This raises several questions:

1. Can weather cause the plane to break up? According to Fox News/AP, experts discount lightning – but that doesn’t mean that some other weather-related event could not have caused it.

But wouldn’t weather related events have caused a gradual catastrophe? If lightning had knocked out avionics, the pilot should have been able to issue a distress call. After all, the plane itself was able to transmit the automated messages.

Wind sheer could have stressed the airframe beyond tolerance and led to failure of its composite-based components and structures.  Was the radar installed in the plane able to read the severity of the weather the pilot was flying in to? Experienced pilots would have avoided the storms and either adjusted course or gone higher to fly over them, but it’s possible that the pilot flew into a severe storm cell without knowing it.

Given the location of the event – in a zone characterized by frequent severe storms – weather may have played a role in the disaster. However planes just don’t suddenly break up in flight for no reason. Planes are strong and flexible aerodynamic structures that are designed to resist all but the worst weather extremes.

2. The detonation of a bomb on board would fit the facts of the disaster as it stands today. Reports – apparently unsourced and not fully confirmed – is that a bomb threat was issued against an Air France flight from Buenos Aires to Paris. Worse, the names of two passengers match two terrorists on a French watch list.

Consider what would have happened had Richard Reid been successful in his attempt to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb. There would have been no distress calls. Automated messages would have reported the same cabin depressurization and systems failures. A bomb would be easier to get aboard a plane flying from a South American country to France rather than the opposite direction.

At this time we don’t have much evidence. The evidence we do have, although scant, supports either of these two scenarios about the same. So with equal evidence we then apply Occam’s Razor, the namesake of this journal. Given equal evidence the simpler of two explanations is most likely the one that is true. Either a unique weather event compounded by mechanical failure brought the plane down or a bomb did. At the time of writing Occam’s Razor favors the terror scenario.

Evidence is slowly being gathered and each piece can support one or the other of these two scenarios. It could also indicate something else completely. But today logic would seem to dictate that Flight 447 is the worst single terrorist event since September 11, 2001.

UPDATE 6/12/2009:

After the argument put forward by Gerard in the comments thread I was able to confirm that his assertion that the decompression message was one of the last to occur. Based on this I would have to revise my conclusion and state that the evidence isn’t equal anymore and in fact would favor the weather/mechanical failure argument. Occam’s Razor would therefore  not apply in this situation (it only can be used with equally weighted evidence).

The link below is best source found so far that lays out the timeline of messages sent by the doomed flight.

Pay particular attention to the comments section which seemed to attract several intelligent comments from members of the aviation industry. The links to PDF’s giving the raw data of the messages with explanations are also worth reviewing.

In short the current theory is that the disaster is a combination of human error and weather which stressed the plane beyond its tolerances and led to its breakup over the Atlantic Ocean. As Gerard mentions in the comments section of this entry, it’s a pretty terrible way to go.

Update 6/13/2009:

Eurocockpit has what appears to be the official message log shown below. Link to site (French), (English via Google Translator).
AF 447 message logs

It is interesting to note that Eurocockpit places blame on Air France for knowing about the pitot tube problem and doing nothing about it.

Clearly, a few hours after the accident, the BEA, Airbus and Air France had heard the contents of messages and their meaning. Ils savaient qu’il s’agissait – de nouveau – d’un problème sur les tubes Pitot. They knew it was – again – a problem on the Pitot tube.

ATA 34 sous-ATA 11/15, et Air France et le BEA viennent nous parler de problèmes électriques, de foudre, de turbulences, d’orages, de FIT, de ZCIT, devant toutes les caméras du monde entier ? ATA ATA-34 in 11/15, and Air France and BEA come talk to us about electrical problems, lightning, turbulence, thunderstorms, of FIT, the ITCZ, before all the cameras around the world?

A Conservative Case for Animal Rights

Last night my son watched Whale Wars on Animal Planet as I stepped into the back bedroom. “Hello children,” I said in my best South Park imitation of Issac Hayes’s Chef’s voice. Suddenly from under the book case appeared four little mewing kittens who leapt onto my lap as I sat on the floor.

I’ve lived my entire life with animals, and while my political labels have changed over the years my interest and care for them has never abated. Now as I push the envelope into libertarianism I find myself comparing the evolution of my political beliefs with my innate ones as a kind of reality. If I find myself espousing causes that conflict with these ideals, I know that it’s time to back-off and reassess the situation. Doing this I’ve successfully steered myself away from extremes on both the left and right, pursuing a middle path that in retrospect is uniquely my own.

Whale Wars chronicles the attempts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to shut down the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica using “direct action” – actively intervening to stop the whaling ships using tactics that push the legal line. Reviews of the show tend to fall along typical political lines with the New York Times and other liberal media outlets praising the show and the right-leaning Wall Street Journal criticizing it.

Most of the large scale whaling that is still conducted in the world is done by the Japanese. Japan’s whaling is based on a cultural argument that whaling is essential to Japanese culture. “Asking Japan to abandon this part of its culture would compare to Australians being asked to stop eating meat pies, Americans being asked to stop eating hamburgers and the English being asked to go without fish and chips.”

As Greenpeace Japan notes, this is a load of whale crap. Whale meat played a minor role in the Japanese diet until after World War 2 when it overtook all other protein sources, its consumption peaking in 1962. This was by necessity since Japan could not afford to import other protein sources and lacked a domestic meat industry that could supply its booming population. Since then Japan has developed internal poultry and pork industries and secured beef imports from the US, Australia and South American.

As a result whale meat has been in decline, even after a concerted effort by the Japanese government to encourage its consumption. The Japanese government has a poor record of encouraging the public to eat what it doesn’t want to eat. In the 1990’s the Japanese government, under pressure from trading partners, allowed the import of rice which the Japanese shunned. The Japanese consumers viewed domestically produced rice as much more fundamental to their culture than whale meat and avoided it, leading the Japanese government to give away the imported rice to North Korea and other nations as food aid.

In short Japan’s population doesn’t need to eat whale meat today because there are cheaper and more sustainable alternatives. In fact surveys show that the Japanese public does not want to eat whale meat no matter how much its government promotes it. Without the support of the Japanese government Japanese whaling companies would go bankrupt. In the end a free market would end a practice faster than shipfuls of pissed off “whale lovers” throwing urine bombs. But given continued government sponsorship of whaling, the actions by those “whale lovers”can be justifiably condoned.

Yet the argument that whaling is uneconomic without government support is a weak one. All it would take is a whale meat fad to sweep Japan and the whaling ships would take to the oceans again. Karl Marx believed that all human activity could be explained by economic theory – particularly his own version of economic history, so it’s important for conservatives to avoid making the same mistakes Marx made when justifying our beliefs.

In his book “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy,” Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush makes the conservative case for animal rights. The basis for Scully’s case is stewardship, that we have a moral duty towards animals to treat them with respect and as humanely as possible. This perspective differs from the “animal rights” groups which view the rights of animals as intrinsic to animals. “What the PETA crowd doesn’t understand,” Jonah Goldberg wrote, “or what it deliberately confuses, is that human compassion toward animals is an obligation of humans, not an entitlement for animals.”

The idea that animal stewardship derives from humans rankles animal rights groups on one hand, but on the other hand threatens the industries built on animal exploitation. America’s animal shelters are overrun with unwanted dogs and cats, yet there is an entire industry devoted to breeding these animals. The annual celebration of this industry, the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is even hosted on Animal Planet.

Animal Stewardship does not make one a vegan. Apes have evolved an omnivorous diet over tens of millions of years. We can’t deny our own biological heritage just because it’s inconvenient to our ideals, but some will try. They may choose to attempt to pursue a vegan lifestyle; personally I have no problem with tearing into a steak. But I want to see the animal that I eat treated well and killed mercifully. This puts me at odds with the beef, pork and poultry industries in the USA that cram chickens and cows into cages just as much as it disgusts the vegans who throw paint on people wearing fur or torch mountain resorts.

I have no problems with hunters who eat what they kill. I do have a problem with men who shoot up the countryside on a weekend bender – drunks with guns. Life is precious and should be treated as such, and I have no respect for a man who shoots something for “sport” and leaves it to rot. If conservatives don’t conserve life, what do we conserve?

So I find myself to the right of PETA and to the left of BeefUSA thanks to my inner compass and my kittens. In case you are wondering their mother has an appointment to be spayed after they are weaned. In the meantime their litterboxes get cleaned, they are fed twice daily and treated with the care that my responsibility for them demands.