On Hating Vegetarians

Many of my friends are vegetarian. To clear up the terminology, I am talking about people who do not eat meat of any kind (not fish or chicken either, folks), but may use other animal products, e.g., eggs or honey.

Non-vegetarian friends rarely handle this well. If the subject comes up, at least one person will immediately and vociferously attack it in one of these ways:

  1. I don’t get it! Boy, I sure do love a big steak. And my mom’s meatloaf. So great! What is with this vegetarian shit? I love lamb chops, and fried clams, and lobster! You know, one favorite place of mine is Kelly’s down on the beach. Boy, they sure do make a great hamburger. Another thing I like…
  2. What is their problem? I’m so tired of all this preaching. Everyone’s telling people what to eat, what to smoke, what to say. Why can’t they just enjoy a normal life like anyone else? Let me tell you, my sister-in-law is one of those vegetarian types and I can’t eat at her house. Just broccoli and shit. Tofu! It’s not food! Who’d eat that shit?
  3. So what do you mean, like, I’m a bad person? Who are you to judge! I bet you do bad things, and you’re telling me I’m a jerk just for doing what everyone does! People like you are all hiding something.
  4. Wow, that’s really unhealthy. Be sure to get enough protein. I mean, you have to make up for it. Be sure to eat huge amounts of [food with high protein content] in it or you’ll get really sick. OMG you make your KID eat vegetarian? That’s like CHILD ABUSE!!!
  5. It’s ridiculously unnatural. Humans are hunters, we eat meat. I mean, c’mon, ancient cave paintings are about hunting. We aren’t meant to survive with out it. How else would we continue to be large, dominant creatures with upper arm strength and a killer instinct? People who don’t eat meat are girly and possibly homosexual. It’s a betrayal of our natural healthy state.

None of these make sense. Let’s learn!

  1. Other people don’t necessarily like your food, and you know it. Why should others like a whole class of foods you enjoy? For that matter, if you learned that a food you enjoyed was made from babies or profited al Qaeda, would you continue to eat it? Your taste has nothing to do with other people!
  2. Did anyone just tell you what to do, or what not to do? Other people not eating something doesn’t constitute restrictions on your habits. It’s their choice. If your sister-in-law can’t cook, either tell her so or push the food around on your plate until it’s time to go. And tofu is just another food, not some condensed symbol of Berkeleyite pseudo-meat hypocrisy. Like it or don’t, but leave the poor curdled soy alone.
  3. Wait, who said that? The person across the table from you just said she doesn’t eat meat. Did she go on to say that people who eat meat are psychopathic murderers without empathy? Did she just start with a lecture about where your burger comes from, or what some religious figure said about eating animals? Did she tip your plate over? If not, she’s just choosing to eat differently from you, and the implication of wickedness is all yours. Not everyone with principles is either a Tartuffe or an inquisitor. Drop it.
  4. You’re just wrong. People who eat a reasonable mix of foods don’t get malnutrition. And that reasonable mix does not have to include meat. When you hear people talk about getting enough “protein,” they are talking out their ears. “Protein” in U.S. culture is just a word for meat. Actual proteins come from many foods, and nobody is getting beri-beri or pellagra from lack of burger. Go look it up!
  5. If you hear an argument for modern behavior based on “instinct,” or “evolution,” or “basic human nature,” stop and investigate, or just dump it. Any human behavior can be justified or condemned based on unexamined assumptions about our nature. These arguments have been used to justify rape, celebrate war, demonize men, excuse cannibalism, and attack pantaloons. Humans have survived with and without meat just as we have survived in the Antarctic and the Sahara, survived genuinely destructive malnutrition, survived Pop-Tarts, and survived living in rivers of raw sewage without antibiotics. All evolutionary biology means is that someone lived long enough to fuck and someone else lived long enough to squirt out some babies of which some survived. It does not imply burgers.

What have we learned? We have learned that meat eaters like meat. We have learned that people who feel criticized morally become upset and defensive. We have learned that in U.S. culture, not eating something can get a person in big social trouble. And we’ve learned that the reasons for this are not reasonable. And finally, we have learned that reactions to food choices are visceral (ha).

It’s true that vegetarianism in the U.S. is almost always a moral choice rather than a tradition or a practical dietary one. Choosing not to eat meat implies a judgment on the act of meat eating parallel to the message of celibacy, sobriety, or boycotts. Vegetarianism also goes against deeply rooted (ha) beliefs about wealth, health, pleasure, and choice. It’s not neutral.

What I take from this is that many people are threatened by the idea of conscious morality. Of any kind. Someone who makes a moral choice and gives up some pleasure, adding some complexity and trouble to life, is a psychological threat. The immediate response is that the person making that choice is a stereotyped hypocrite from a Hollywood movie, an unhappy person who wishes others to be unhappy, an obsessed idiot. I’ve noticed a linguistic shift during my life that perfectly evokes this: I hear people using “righteous” to mean “self-righteous,” as if the very idea of moral choice implies hypocrisy and the need to control others.

I myself am not a vegetarian. I have no meat days twice a week. I am not a believer in “animal rights,” nor do I consider killing animals and eating them to be immoral. My reasons are humanist. Meat takes a lot of grain to make, and eating meat has an environmental and economic impact on others. I’ve been impressed by some calculations of how much better one can do just by eating less meat, and so far I’m doing so. I have no authority or desire to tell anyone else to do the same, or to say that I’m “more moral” because of this. It just feels right to me, and I enjoy my food more.

if you’re not a vegetarian, and vegetarians make you grumpy, consider why. Are there good reasons why someone else’s personal moral choice makes you upset? Are people who make a moral choice necessarily hypocrites, nannies, deluded utopians? Or have you avoided and denied ethical and empathetic impulses so much in your own life that anyone making the effort has you terrified?

Hating others for harmlessly doing what they believe to be right does not reflect well on us as individuals or as a society. Eschew that.

News in these here now United States

noooz

At the end of a Monday, this is the top news of a wealthy, well-known Southern California beach resort, population about 90,000. There’s a lot going on in my town. News-type news happens! More than most cities this size. We have a harbor and a large beach.

But apparently the Register (and everyone else, really) decided to save $5 and fire all their reporters. Top stories here include two actual news items, two rewarmed press releases, three canned data stories, and a real estate tout. Just from hearing sirens during the day anyone can tell that a couple of those data-repeating or PR stories could be replaced with a car crash, for chrissakes.

The Register was never an excellent newspaper, but they did cover local news. If a column of smoke was rising from the Westside or 8 cop cars arrived at the high school, you knew they’d have something about it the next day.

Welp that’s done!

What do you all think? What’s the likely effect of disappearing local news over the next decade or so?

Area Library To Remove Books, Librarians from Library

I rarely reproduce an article in its entirety, but as would say, the whole thing is a pullquote. I can’t come up to the challenge of annotating or responding. Instead, read:

Newport may close Balboa branch, open ‘electronic’ library
Instead, part of planned community center would be equipped with computer center, on-demand book orders.

NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Beach Public Library is considering closing one of its four branches and outfitting a planned community center with everything that it offered — except the books.

At a meeting about the Balboa Peninsula’s Marina Park development Wednesday, city officials unveiled plans to close the Balboa Branch — which houses 35,000 items, including books, DVD and other materials — and to dedicate a portion of the Marina Park Community Center to an “electronic library.”

By eliminating books and librarians at the building, they hope to adapt to modern times and save money while providing residents services they’ll actually use. In the process, they would replace the library’s most iconic features with Internet connections.

“That caused me the most angst,” said City Manager Dave Kiff. “People identify [book] stacks with the library.”

But officials analyzed how its patrons use the branches and found that most come for a quiet place to study, to plug their laptops into work spaces and to use the Internet-connected computers. Few of them actually remove books from the shelves.

That’s especially the case at the Balboa branch, said Cynthia Cowell, library services director.

“They come specifically to use the computers,” she said. “We have a lot of electronic use of the library, and it’s getting bigger all the time.”

The new facility would have a 2,200-square-foot “Internet library” room with a central fireplace and a kiosk where patrons could order books to borrow using an online system. Some seats and tables would look out onto the bay.

“What we hope to accomplish,” Cowell said, “is to create a place where people want to come and be.”

If residents still want to get their book on the Peninsula, they could order it online from the other branches and pick it up at Marina Park. Instead of holding books behind a desk, the library would drop them off in individual lockers.

“A lot of people still want to touch a book, hold a book, smell it,” Cowell said. “The sensory experience is still very important to many of us.”

The new process would be similar to Netflix. Patrons could place orders from anywhere with an Internet connection: home, work, Marina Park, etc. The kiosk would also be equipped with video-calling software, similar to Skype. Patrons could speak face-to-(projected) face with a reference librarian who could help answer research questions and point them toward the right online resources.

Cowell said she anticipates some blow-back from people in the community, but downplayed the change in peoples’ library experience.

“It’s just the delivery method,” she said.

When Long Beach considered closing its downtown library in 2008 and opening a similar Internet library with pick-up capabilities, many in the community fought back. Some of them were from the Long Beach Public Library Foundation.

In Newport, the Friends of the Library may not have such a strong reaction.

Speaking for herself, Nancy Acone, a Friends board member and manager of The Friends Book Store, said, “You have to be open for change in the library, because you don’t want to be like the railroads and go out of business.”

Presumably, it would be cheaper to run the library without trained reference librarians, but Cowell said she hasn’t run the numbers yet. The City Council would have to decide what to do with the three full-time staff members at the Balboa Branch, she said, and whether closing it would eliminate additional work for other library staffers.

At older than 50 years, the Balboa branch and the adjoining fire station need to be rebuilt, city officials said. If this plan goes through, they would rebuild the station and possibly turn the library land into a park, Kiff said.

In Defense of Marriage: A Modest Proposal

It is a fact generally acknowledged that the institution of marriage in the United States is troubled.

Editorial writers, television journalists, and politicians are agreed that less people are marrying, less are taking their marriages seriously, more are ending their marriages, and those who end them often have several. The importance and permanence of marriage appear to be badly eroded.

More recently, the attempts by homosexuals to have their marriages legally recognized have alarmed many of the same people. They’ve urged others to stop these proposed changes, on the grounds that marriage between anything other than a man and a woman is against Nature, and that this change will further damage this wounded institution of marriage or even finally kill it.

Whatever the measurable facts might be, there is a perception among the educated middle class that marriage is reduced, threatened, devalued, and possibly outmoded, and it’s a great cause for concern for many people. It would be generally helpful to calm their fears and, if possible, to revive marriage as a serious institution for those who choose it. Mistreating homosexuals is not helpful, nor is theocracy.

Prohibiting divorce and remarriage is the most obvious approach, but is politically impossible. Religious or simply conservative individuals who dislike homosexuals and fornicators are still unwilling to abandon serial marriage as an option, and will resist this fiercely, despite implied contradictions in their thinking.

Instead, I propose that we treat this as a matter of state incentive, and make our improvements with pricing as we do in the case of roads, for example. In this particular case, the problem is not the first marriage itself, which must be kept simple and inexpensive, but the mechanism of divorce. Easy divorce erodes the permanence and seriousness of marriage.

I propose a new set of taxes or fees, which will at once act as a brake on casual marriage and benefit the people financially. The act of divorce also must remain simple and inexpensive; the cost of endless failed marriages is measured not only in misery but in the cost of domestic violence and child abuse, which unduly burdens us all.

Instead, the schedule of fees will apply to remarriage. A second marriage, for example, might cost $5,000. This is a reasonable fee for a serious commitment, and will emphasize to both parties that they are taking on a serious responsibility. The third marriage in this case would require a $15,000 fee; the fourth, $50,000; and the fifth, $100,000. Whether to continue increasing the fee or not is a matter for further discussion.

This schedule of assessment on new marriages would apply to any marriage license issued by the government. Religious institutions would remain free to declare marriages valid or not by their own accounting, but none of this would apply to the legal status of those marrying.

In the case of polyamorous marriage, fees would apply to all participants.

Widows and widowers would be exempt from the remarriage payment for the next marriage after the death of their former partners. Legal penalties for the intentional death of a spouse to avoid the marriage fee would be increased over and above those for other murders, to reduce moral hazard from this rule.

The advantages of this system are obvious. No one is prevented from legally ending an insupportable marriage. Those who are seriously committed to further marriages are free to do so after paying the fee. Feckless and flighty couples with money will progressively enrich the state and the people. And as in all such plans, the cycle of divorce and remarriage will be dramatically slowed. Finally, the power of the institution itself will be greatly enhanced both in practical decision-making and generally respect. Nothing commands more authority in American society than a very large price tag.

I hope you’ll join me in sharing this proposal with friends, family, church leaders, and government representatives. I think that all of us, whether we intend to marry or not, can support a rescue of the power of marriage that restricts none of us and enriches all of us.

12 hours to liftoff, leak discovered in #8 internet pump

223/365 - my bank sucks

Some despicable creature used my (just re-created!) debit card number to buy $700 of whatever at a goddamn Wal-Mart in Morgan Hill, CA, causing the number to go dead just before I go overseas for two weeks.

This has resulted in yakety-sax with harmonizing sad trombone for the last two hours, including a conversation with my bank about Japanese addresses, two disconnections at critical parts of a discussion with them, a number of deadlines and minimum service times just exactly out of reach, use of the entire week’s supply of foul language, and a thing where I bumped my elbow on the door.

Rays of sunshine: my bank caught it and I’m not paying for this troglodyte’s Wal-Martery; I actually have money, it’s just going to be a bit harder to get at; I’m going to Japan, dammit.

That war on bank fraud? We’re not winning!