Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I've been putting up a bushel of peaches for the freezer. There is something soothing about the strong sweet smell that transports me back in time.

I remember eavesdropping on my grandmother and her sisters. They were in my grandmother's bedroom in the house on Abercorne Street in Savannah, GA. My great aunt Emmy Jo had come up from Florida with a box of mangos and oranges from her grove. Great aunt Baby Dear had come from Tennessee and had stopped in Spartanburg for a few bushels of peaches. It must have been summer. In my memory, their gatherings were always garnished with fruit and the work that went into putting the fruit up for the winter.

I can hear them talking, sisterly, about mango peelings and rashes. One of the sisters would take a rash from peeling mangoes, which are related somehow to poison ivey, they said. I don't think that's true, somehow, but it sounded right at the time and I felt I had learned something special.

They are in the bathroom washing their hands and giggling. I am very small and sitting on my grandmother's rice bed with the nobbly white bedspread and wondering if she has any rock candy in her dresser. She always did. I think about the peaches and wonder if my grandfather will whittle monkeys from the peach pits as he sometimes did for me.

Today, the scent of peaches clings to my hands like gloves. I inhale the scent and for a moment I am five.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) SB 1139/2669

Being the yellow dog Democrat that I am, it right pains me to get behind a Republican backed bill. But that is exactly what I am doing in regards to PAWS 1139/2669. I am begging you to take a bit of time and dash off an email to a few senators and your own representatives. If you care at all about animal welfare...this is a really important bill.

From HSUS:

"The PAWS bill is necessary because currently all commercial breeders of dogs and cats who sell their animals directly to the public avoid AWA licensing and humane handling requirements even when they are selling a large number of animals. The growing popularity of the Internet has created an unintentional loophole in the current law, allowing these commercial breeders to classify themselves "retail pet stores" and evade all federal oversight. As a result, raising animals in deplorable conditions and selling them to someone sight unseen has become even easier, and is a highly profitable business. These high volume dealers are commonly referred to as "puppy mills."

The puppy mill lobby has flooded the internet with lies about this bill. They have duped half of the rescue community by terrifying them with lies about how the USDA will now come after the shelters and rescue organizations. This bill stands a real chance of slowing the tide of misery pouring forth from these hell holes.

Organizations in support of PAWS include: HSUS, The AKC, and The Doris Day Animal League . Contrary to what the scaremongerers are putting out there...the only people who have anything to worry about with this bill are those who are abusing animals.

Rick Santorum's staff has indicated that what is needed right now is:

1. Calls and emails of support.

2. Co-sponsors for the bill.

If you have questions, please feel free to call Santorum's office. They are happy to answer your questions and will send out packets of information about the bill to you.

Please call or email the following contacts and your own representatives to support this bill!

Use this link to find your own representatives and ask them to please co-sponsor this bill!
U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation

Jurisdiction over legislation on agricultural education and research; animal welfare; legislation on or relating to food, nutrition and hunger; commodity donations; food stamps; national school lunch program; school breakfast program; summer food program for children; special milk program for children; special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children; nutritional programs for the elderly; Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act; and general legislation.

Rick Santorum, Chair
Washington DC Office, 511 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Email Form:

Patrick J. Leahy, Ranking Democrat
Washington DC Office, 433 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Richard G. Lugar (R-IN)
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
FAX: 202.228.0360

Thad Cochran (R-MS)
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Email Form:

Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
133 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Email Form: http://stabenow.senate.gov/email.htm

Max Baucus (D-MT)
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington Dc 20510
FAX: 202.224.0515
Email Form:

Mike Crapo (R-ID)
239 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
FAX: (202) 228-1375
Email Form: http://crapo.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm

Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
361-A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington Dc 20510
FAX: 202.224.2499
Email Form: : http://mcconnell.senate.gov/contact_form.cfm

Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
355 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
FAX: 202.228.1371
Email Form: : http://lincoln.senate.gov/webform.html

Pat Roberts (R-KS)
109 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
FAX: 202.224.3514
Email Form:

E. Benjamin Nelson (D-NE)
720 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington Dc 20510
FAX: 202.228.0012
Email Form:

Full text of this bill is available here.

Image from "Prisoners for Profit" by Rachel A. Lamb.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Animal Hoarders

I'm not known for my ability to suffer fools gladly. In fact, I tend to suffer fools rather noisily and with a rather ill temper. I have little tolerance for people with mental conditions that are constantly used as excuses for their behavior. I, frankly, don't give a damn about your tragic childhood and how it has caused you to do whatever heinous act you've been indulging in. Particularly if it involves an animal or a small child.

I've been involved with animal welfare issues actively and formally for about five years. I work with humane societies and municipal shelters as a laiason between rescue organizations and the more formal sheltering professions. I try to help people keep their pets in their family...especially if the pet is a cocker spaniel. I also try to steer the public toward reputable rescues and shelters. I've had my share of bad experiences with both sides of the fence. I do what I can, time and finances permitting.

On the rescue side, the most common problem encountered is hoarders masquerading as rescue organizations. Honestly, people in rescue can tend to be a bit batty. You have to wade your way through a gang of crazy sometimes to find the people who are really just there to help the animals without some sort of agenda.

Animal hoarding is a world-wide problem. Some rescuers are clearly hoarders...but manage to take care of their animals and control their collections. But others fall into the dangerous side of collecting where they keep animals without adopting them out, fail to vet their animals and let animals die from neglect. I actually started my referral to combat such a rescue operating in my area. If you adopt an animal from a rescue, always ask for a veterinary reference. They are going to ask you for one so don't be shy about asking for one in return. Do not adopt from a rescue who does not keep a good and current relationship with a veterinarian.

Last week this story appeared. Animal control officers seized 488 cats from 82 year old Ruth Knueven's house. All of them were either dead or dying and all but 8 had to be destroyed. What makes this even more tragic is that 120 cats were taken from her in 2001. There is no cure for animal hoarding. Like sex offenders, hoarders do not seem to be able to stop this behavior. The judge in this case found the stones to declare Ms. Knueven "unfit to own pets".

Tougher laws are needed to deal with this problem which is more widespread in the rescue community than in other segments of the nation.

For more information on this devastating form of animal neglect:

The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts

Thursday, July 14, 2005

When that whole "Freedom Fries" thing came up...I was cringing. As if our french fries could even hold a bic lighter to pommes frites. There is absolutely no comparison and we should feel lucky that the French even allow us to call our pale, greasy imitation a "french" fry.

It's true...I drew a "moue" or seven while I was there. Particularly in Paris, where the tone is a bit higher. The coat check ladies at the Louvre were particularly offended by my smelly Barbour jacket that I wore everywhere. They thought I was a Brit. And everyone pleaded with me to please not speak French. That's how amazingly bad my French is....plus it is spoken very slowly with a thick South Carolina Lowcountry accent.

"ou est la toilette, y'all".

But I think I got points for at least trying to speak the language. I always loved David Sedaris' "Me Talk Pretty One Day"....because that was so me as well.

It is one thing to love France. Many people love France. But it is another thing entirely to love the French. I know my sister loves France...and she goes there quite often. I wish I could travel there as often. But I'm not sure she loves the French as I do.

Loving the French means submersing yourself in a set of priorities that are quite foreign to Anglo sensibilities. It means being violently passionate about certain things....and suffering from a dreadful ennui about others. It means caring deeply about human rights, tradition, food, wine, leisure time and sex, while at the same time having an abiding concern and devotion to Catholicism, family and privacy. As I do with any culture, I identified more with the country folk than with the Parisians. I just don't enjoy "putting on the dog" as we say, as much as other people. Paris is all about "putting on the dog".

I'm probably putting it poorly. I'm fairly certain that I don't actually "get it". But I've tried awfully hard to do so. I was probably as much of an ugly American as the next guy.

But I think I got points for not asking directions to the Bastille.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I couldn't make up my mind as to what to put in the Gullible's Travels gallery today. Did I want to do the psychic dog? Or maybe MoonFakers? There are just so many wacky things to choose from.

If you are wondering why this is important to me...it's because I see an enormous amount of zeal flowing into things that aren't real. We have big problems. Big problems that are real. If we could channel the energy we spend on the things that aren't real into the things that are...I just wonder if maybe we could actually do something about things like global warming, wars, food safety, the environment, the rise of fundamentalist extremism, the awful political situation the US is in....ad nauseum.

These are taken from Robert L. Park's excellent article, The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science, that appeared in the January 31st 2003 issue of The Chronical of Higher Education. I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. While most of the skeptical articles I refer to deal with science...the principles hold true for politics, commerce and day to day living. You will readily recognize many of these warning signs from advertising.

1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
"An attempt to bypass peer review by taking a new result directly to the media, and thence to the public, suggests that the work is unlikely to stand up to close examination by other scientists."

2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
The idea is that the establishment will presumably stop at nothing to suppress discoveries that might shift the balance of wealth and power in society. Often, the discoverer describes mainstream science as part of a larger conspiracy that includes industry and government."

3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
"All scientific measurements must contend with some level of background noise or statistical fluctuation. But if the signal-to-noise ratio cannot be improved, even in principle, the effect is probably not real and the work is not science."

4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
"If modern science has learned anything in the past century, it is to distrust anecdotal evidence. Because anecdotes have a very strong emotional impact, they serve to keep superstitious beliefs alive in an age of science."

5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
Ancient folk wisdom, rediscovered or repackaged, is unlikely to match the output of modern scientific laboratories."

6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
Scientific breakthroughs nowadays are almost always syntheses of the work of many scientists."

7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.
"A new law of nature, invoked to explain some extraordinary result, must not conflict with what is already known. If we must change existing laws of nature or propose new laws to account for an observation, it is almost certainly wrong."

Also check out Robert L. Parks book, Voodoo Science: The Road From Foolishness to Fraud.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I picked up a big basket of South Carolina peaches in Newport the other week. The idea of the sweetness of my home state was too strong to resist. I mentioned something about the goats and the fella unloaded four crates of over-ripe peaches on me in addition to the basket I bought.

Well, the goats aren't going to see these. I'm making brandy.

Peek-a-boo Peach Brandy is made by layering sugar and peaches in a large crock or jar. You stir the mixture for the first seven days for about 3 minutes to release the fermenting gases. On the seventh day, add the juice of four lemons and a box of raisins. You wrap the jar in a paper bag and hide it in a cool dark place. Check in about 21 days and decant and bottle if you wish. It will result in a potent spirit by Thanksgiving at which you can "peek" at it and enjoy some. You can add some moonshine(or vodka) to make it even stronger and more potent. The left over fruit is really wonderful spooned over vanilla ice cream. By Christmas, it should have quite a kick to it.

I'm planning to do the same this summer with blackberries and elderberries. I haven't gotten much gardening in due to the spill I took during planting season chasing the damn goat.